Mindfulness is one of many techniques we draw upon as part of our holistic approach. There are many misconceptions about what mindfulness is, and how it can be of benefit to athletes and coaches...
What Is Mindfulness?
"Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens."
- Center for Greater Good, Berkeley
Mindfulness is an ancient technique. Its benefits have been known for centuries, but recently mindfulness has proliferated across a range of settings - in schools, healthcare, the military, and sport, to name just a few.
Why Does It Matter?
One person in four suffers with mental ill health, and most problems begin at a young age and are preventable. Sport is well-placed to help, but studies show there is an epidemic of bullying and emotional harm at all levels of sport. As a result, we see high rates of burnout, dropout, anxiety and depression, and even suicide. A more skillful approach is needed. An approach that recognises every person's unique humanity, an approach that cares, that breaks down barriers, and that sees the bigger picture of sport - away from something that can be measured purely in the Win/Loss column.
"How do you survive those less-than-perfect situations when discipline isn’t enough? When grittiness gets you through the workouts but can’t seem to get you through the rest of the day? As a runner you’re highly in tune with your body, and you know its highs and lows […] Learning the highs and lows of your mind is much harder”- From Kate Fagan’s 'What Made Maddy Run?' which documents the harrowing story of female athlete, Maddy Holleran, who took her own life.
The Benefits of Mindfulness (American Psychological Association)
- Mindfulness boosts the immune system, reduces negative emotions, reduces stress, and increases gray matter density in areas linked to learning, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy.
- Mindfulness fosters compassion and altruism, encourages healthy habits, reduces chronic pain, and improves sleep.
- Mindfulness is used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder and more.
- Notable sport stars who utilize mindfulness and meditation include: Novak Djokovic, the LA Lakers, the Seattle Seahawks, Kobe Bryant, Misty May-Trainor, Kerri Walsh, and of course many more!
- Mindfulness improves focus, concentration and our ability to let go of negative thoughts that can affect our performance. Athletes find mindfulness helps them to be process-oriented and less anxious, allowing them to enjoy better health and improved performance.
“The benefits of mindfulness practice as applied to sports are almost
blindingly obvious. Focus, awareness, clarity of thought, and the ability
to stay in the present moment are basic skills for any great athlete – and meditator.”
- Soren Gordhamer
How Does It Work?
"Mindfulness is a way of paying attention that entails intentionally being aware of the present moment and accepting things just as they are without judgment. This style of attention is characterized by a sense of equanimity that comes from seeing thoughts, feelings, and sensations as constantly in flux. When able simply to watch such experiences come and go, rather than latch on to and over-identify with them, a person has more opportunity to take in the fullness of any given moment. This awareness and acceptance of “what is” ultimately allows for greater responsiveness to the self and environment, providing freedom from the reflexive or automatic reactions that so often guide actions." - Mindful Sport Performance Enhancement: Mental Training for Athletes and Coaches, by K. A. Kaufman, C. R. Glass, and T. R. Pineau