How Mindfulness Can help Athletes
Teenagers live in a world that bombards them with constant stress—school, family, work, relationships, sports, extra-curricular activities, ACT’s, SAT’s, prom, phone, computers, dating, social media, Facebook, Instagram…..and the list goes on.
When you feel constant stress and anxiety, day in and day out, what do you do? How do you cope?
Do you ever get to a place of feeling calm, focused, thoughtful, and happy? When was the last time you were able to sit quietly and be ‘in the moment’, not stressing about all the mistakes of yesterday or worried about what will happen in an hour, day, year?
Let’s talk about being ‘mindful’---being in the moment, recognizing how you fell right now, with no judgement, only kindness.
There is a lot of research that suggests practicing Mindfulness can help you mentally and physically: decreasing anxiety and anger, boosts energy, improves sleep, boosts concentration and focus, improves mood and happiness, helps heart function, improves self-esteem, and reduces chronic pain.
Being Mindful can also help us rewire our brains and strengthen the smart part of our brain (pre-frontal cortex) so we are able to respond to stress in a healthier manner.
Athletes are seeing the benefits of incorporating Mindfulness in their training practices. Athletes spend hours every day working out their body to improve their skills in the game, and now also realize they need to focus on working their brain in order to deal with the mental aspect of the game.
So, how do you do this? How do you train your brain to respond to things in a calm, thoughtful way, instead of with anger, irritability, and negative emotions? It’s easy, doesn’t take a ton of time, and can be done anywhere, anytime, anyplace.
The best place to start is with your breath.
Belly Breathing: Use your breathing to calm your thoughts and settle your brain. When we intentionally focus on our breathing, we calm the alarm part of our brain that takes in all the anxiety, and we began to relax and focus. Make sure you take slow belly breathes, inhaling for 4 or 5 seconds and exhaling for 4 to 5 seconds. Try to really concentrate on your breaths in and out, if your mind wanders, just go back to the breathing. Do this for a minute before a test or a game to help your body and mind connect and perform your best.
Catch your Thoughts: What we think about is what will flourish and grow in our brains and lives. If we constantly are thinking of negative things, that is what will flourish in our brains and lives and make us more miserable and unhappy. When we intentionally pay attention to happy and positive things we feel happier. Pretty simple. Every morning when you wake up, take some deep belly breaths and think about something or someone that makes you happy—focus on all the wonderful things about this person, place, or thing. Do this for one minute in the morning, and one minute before bed. This practice will help rewire your brain to be more thoughtful and happy.