MINDFULNESS FOR SPORTS PERFORMANCE
The word Mindfulness means “awareness” or “mental presence”. It is hard to translate all the facets of this practice into Italian.
John Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of the approach, gives this definition: “Mindfulness means paying attention, particularly: a) with intention, b) while attending to the present moment, c) in a non judgemental way”. Mindfulness is therefore a method for cultivating a full presence in the experience of the moment, in the here and now. By eliminating the mental judgements that often prevent us from fully experiencing the things we do. By disengaging our autopilot and becoming aware of each small everyday action. Mindfulness can be experienced in any activity, like taking a morning shower, preparing the lunch, while eating or having coffee with a friend. And – why not? – also during physical exercise.
Mindfulness is not:
- A relaxation technique: it does not have the ultimate goal of relaxing you. Precisely for this reason it is a technique that can be applied to every activity you undertake during the day. From walking to eating. It certainly helps you relax your mind and relieve stress;
- A religion: although the research that informed the theory and applications of mindfulness are rooted in religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, this practice is atheistic. It is not associated with religions or spiritual journeys;
- The absence of thoughts: the aim of staying aware and in the present, without making judgements, should not be mistaken for a method to empty the mind and eliminate all thoughts. Instead it teaches us them to see them, to recognise them and to not attach ourselves to them;
- A state of trance: one of the precepts of Mindfulness is a state of presence, so it cannot be anything like being in a trance. Clarity and mental lucidity are two of its foundations;
- An extra-sensory state: in fact to practice it you need to remain within your body and to use all your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell) in order to experience it.
Athletes are often under pressure and the feel the need to satisfy expectations. Tiredness, below-par performance and anxiety are not good allies of self-esteem and the ability to concentrate.
With mindfulness meditation athletes learn to breathe deeply and not be distracted by what is around them; they focus only on the “here and now”, ridding themselves of negative thoughts in order to reduce stress and improve their performance.
They must feel satisfied with the journey they are on and take pleasure in what they do, perceiving workouts as an experience of well-being. It is very useful, therefore, to do specialist courses to make this practice your own through consistency and experience.
A high level of self-awareness helps athletes (and others) to become aware of the factors that put them under stress, to reflect on the present and to understand how to behave accordingly.