Updated: Feb 27, 2019
When I’m working with athletes I often challenge them to be more attuned to their thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and external awareness while competing. It’s easy in the midst of competition to lose sight of the very things that allow us to “be in the zone”. When we bring an enhanced level of mindfulness to our sport, we are able to compete with greater clarity, focus, and responsiveness. Mindful athletes have an improved awareness of their minds and bodies, allowing greater control and power over their play.
Below I have listed 4 ways for athletes to bring a greater level of mindfulness to their game.
1.Become Aware of Your Physical Sensations
Check in with your body. Listening to the physical sensations you’re experiencing can help you become more aware of your strength, agility, and stamina. You can also notice where you’re holding stress and which parts of your body might be feeling tense. This is a key component when it comes to recovery, self care, and making quicker adjustments. High performing athletes in any sport are very skilled at listening, understanding, and deeply connecting to their physical body.
2. Become Aware of Your Thoughts
The images, scenarios, memories, and conversations that we replay in our minds become the catalyst for how we perform. The narrative that we tell ourselves eventually impacts the reality of our current experience. Are we speaking to ourselves with the same compassionate and motivational tone we would use with a friend? Are we replaying images of games when we were playing our best? Or do we continue to watch re-runs of our failures? Sometimes we feel down or like we’re in a funk and we haven't even noticed that it may because of the habitual thoughts that are circulating in our minds. Take control. Notice your thoughts. Get curious about what’s going on in your head. Bringing awareness to your thoughts is integral to transforming into a mindful athlete.
3. Become Aware of Your Feelings
Your mind and body are connected, and one will always affect the other. Whether you’re excited about an upcoming game, worried about an opposing player, frustrated over your playing time, or experiencing confidence or doubt about how you will do - these are all examples of feelings that will impact your performance. Being mindful of your feelings allows you the space to release anything that does not serve you. Letting go of the thoughts, emotions, and feelings that are not supporting high performance allows you to focus more clearly on the job at hand.
4. Become Aware of Your Environment
Use your senses to bring your awareness to the present moment. I often have my athletes do the 5-4-3-2-1 sensory activity to minimize anxiety. Notice 5 things that you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This practice promotes presence and enhances your ability to respond in game time situations. Bringing an elevated sense of awareness towards your environment is key to bringing your focused attention to the here and now.