By: Tim Bennett, MGCP
It is a cool buzzword that has come to the forefront of sports psychology in recent years. However, for some strange reason, it gets cast as a hippy-type movement. That is not the case at all and sports science backs this up! But what exactly is athletic mindfulness?
First, we know that our mind directly influences our athletic performance. So, mindfulness is a way to align our mind-body connection to increase performance. It is training our brain to be in the present moment and better able to handle internal and external distractions. It is about bringing our full awareness to the present through paying attention to our experience as is, on purpose and non-judgmentally. Mindfulness also allows us to become aware of personal thoughts, feelings, and other internal stimuli and encourages athletes to focus on personal values or processes of sport-related skills and game strategies instead of focusing on performance outcomes (Pineau, Glass, & Kaufman, 2014).
Awareness and acceptance of the present moment allow an athlete to focus less on negative thoughts, and focus on the athletic tasks at hand (Pineau et al., 2014). Mindful athletes are better equipped to allow the focus of their attention to be directed toward task-relevant cues, such as opponents and behavioral choices, such as the implementation of techniques and skills that may lead to an overall improved athletic performance (Moore, 2009). Thus, mindfulness allows individuals to concentrate their attention on the present moment and not dwell on the past nor worry about the future. Additionally, instead of changing or stopping unwanted thoughts, mindfulness teaches athletes to play with such thoughts (Bernier et al., 2009; Gardner & Moore, 2004). This is important for athletes because dwelling on past mistakes or worrying about future performances prevents them from performing at their best and just as importantly, not having fun when competing.
In other words, athletic mindfulness is an athlete’s superpower! A greater sense of mindfulness is more likely to lead us to experience a higher state of flow, to our optimal performance mindset, or to our zone. After all, at elite athletic performance levels, everyone is fit, everyone is strong, everyone is technically skilled and tactically astute. Mindfulness is the difference!
The next natural question is how does it specifically help our athletic performance. Here is a quick list:
- Helps to control performance anxiety
- Improves focus, awareness, and concentration
- Improves emotional regulation
- Reduces the mind from ruminating
- Reduces fear of failure
- Improves sense of identity and self
- Increases confidence
- Increases resiliency and mental toughness
- Increases tolerance to discomfort and pain
- Goal attainment, grittiness
Mindfulness NEEDs to be trained daily, like any other skill or technique. Here are quick list of specific mindfulness-based interventions to incorporate into your daily training routines:
- Body scans
- Internal and external messaging.
Being a more mindful athlete will help you stay calm under pressure, give you a healthier perspective with your sport, and of course, help you perform your best more consistently.
Want to learn how to be a mindful athlete? Contact Focus Therapy/Performance Coaching