70% of successful sport performance is due to our mental state. Our bodies, talent, skills and preparation are only about 30% of our performance.
Yet, we spend most of our time, attention, and resources on the physical aspect. We train for hours, pay for better coaches, better equipment, and often overlook what’s most relevant and can actually make us “better athletes”, our mind.
This muscle, “our brain” can actually make us faster, stronger, better, if we just train it properly. For years, visualizations and positive affirmations have been used to train the athletes’ mind. But now, more and more high performance athletes such as Kobe Bryant and Novak Djokovic, realize that incorporating Mindfulness meditation into their routines is paying up big time with their performance during game time.
But why Mindfulness?
Studies have proven that Mindfulness trains the areas of the brain helping athletes to focus better, stay present and preserve a calm but alert state of mind.
Athletes are under constant pressure. Sometimes fear, anxiety, loud crowds, or overwhelming thoughts can become distractions that affect their performance. This is where Mindfulness becomes key, since it trains the mind to focus on the present moment and preserve a calm state of mind.
With a strong but calm mind comes a solid performance. Better decisions can be made in the heat of moment, concentration can be achieved even under pressure, and the body can be more relaxed since the mind its signaling calmness.
Where to Begin?
Here are a few ways you can practice Mindfulness meditation. We suggest you start with the short breathing meditations and then alternate with the Quick Body Scans. If you find it difficult to do on your own, you can check out the Welzen App for focused, free guided Mindfulness meditations.
Breathing Meditations: These meditations are simple and aimed to keep your entire focus on your breathing. Is best if done first thing in the morning. Start by sitting in a quiet place and find a comfortable position. You can close your eyes or lower your gaze. Begin to breathe consciously inhaling in a count of 3 and exhaling in a count of 2. Notice your belly rising and falling with every breath, and stay fully engaged with your breathing for at least 5 minutes.
Quick Body Scan: This type of meditation pays close attention to the sensations in the body as you breathe consciously. The Body Scan meditation can reveal how emotions are being reflected in the body, for example anxiety may be shown as tension in your chest.
To begin, set up in a quiet place and a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Take 3 deep breaths and shift your attention to your body. You can begin by focusing on your head and continue to move down all the way to your toes. Explore what sensation are present in each part of your body. If you don’t find any sensations or you get distracted, is okay, always bring your attention back to your body and continue to the next area. The first time you do this meditation, you may not find anything apparent and that’s okay too, with practice you’ll be able to observe with more clarity.
There are a lot of things we still don’t know about our mind, but if we put the time and effort to learn and train it properly, it can truly benefit us as people and as athletes. Every day there is more evidence on the huge difference Mindfulness makes in athletes’ performance, so why not give it a try!