The human existence is an amalgamation of the body, mind and soul such that not one of these can progress without the other. You can train and dream the hardest to podium at a race, but ask yourself where would you end up if your deepest fears took the best of you when it was your moment to shine? You would, despite months or years of effort, be at the mercy of the very unpredictable lady luck to save your dream. So, why is so much left to luck even after you’ve put in so much effort and energy? While most athletes are aware that there is a mental component to athletic performance, they do not take active measures to prepare and empower themselves psychologically. Instead, they place their emphasis on the most obvious bodily requirements of mastering their sport such as physical strength, skill, speed, flexibility, etc. This is, in part, due to lack of awareness of the role that the human mind plays and how meditative techniques can be used to unleash your mind’s full potential. So, here is a detailed account of how mindful meditation can help you boost your athletic performance:
Athletes have to stretch physically and emotionally to excel in the sport of their choice. This, in most cases, means prolonged exposure to long and strenuous workouts that have been found to be taxing for both cognitive vigour as well as one’s emotional well-being. The reason for this is that exercise is basically a form of stress that requires you to motivate yourself to keep going when it would be much more appealing to stop and rest. This drains the body of physical and cognitive energy and if such exercise is continued for long periods of time, you end up experiencing a decline in your attention as well as general happiness. Here, it is important to remember that while short rigorous physical workouts are essential, many of the negative effects of long ones can be mitigated if you learn to train your mind through mindful meditation. This was observed in a study conducted at the University of Miami that found mindful meditation to supersede other forms of relaxation techniques in safeguarding players of a Division 1 football team from stress and anxiety. The study also found that the more frequently and deeply you engage in mindful meditation, the more you are protected against the negative effects of intensive training. The study goes on to recommend at least 12 minutes of meditation every day to keep performance at an optimum level.
A lot of people strive hard to perform their best at a particular sport. However, there are only a few who outshine the rest to be remembered throughout history. But why is this so? Two researchers, John Partington and Terry Orlick set out to examine this situation and studied the 1984 Olympics to find the primary difference between medallists from other competing athletes. They found that the primary difference between the two was the level of their mental preparedness. Additionally, other researchers like Keith Kaufman, Research Associate at The Catholic University of America, believes that an athlete’s performance is dependant nearly 50% on his mental strength when they compete with someone of similar capability and can even be as high as 80 – 90% for certain sports. So, if you wish to gain an edge over your competitors, you need to find ways to improve your awareness abilities such as focus, attention, analytical ability, decision-making and alertness. You can do so by practicing mindful meditation as it not only improves these awareness abilities but even goes a step ahead and ingrains them into your habitual thinking process. This is because as you practice mindfulness, you learn to identify and channel out negative thoughts, become increasingly aware of your surroundings and feel much more equipped to respond to them in a swift and well-thought out manner. Moreover, if you practice mindful meditation regularly, these heightened awareness abilities slowly become a part of your cognitive process owing to the phenomenon of plasticity. Because of this phenomenon, when you rehearse your awareness abilities via meditation, the connections in the brain associated with these actions become stronger and they become habitual for you.
The human mind tends to deviate from what is going on around it every few minutes and begins to dwell on events of the past, worries of the future and general daydreaming. All of these factors have been found to increase anxiety and depression for the sole reason that you have no control over them. Moreover, if your mind grows accustomed to growing off on these mental tangents, chances are you will remain distracted even as you play, thereby reducing your overall productivity. However, if you practice meditation, you can learn to identify and ignore these distractions and stay focused on your game.
Professional or diligent pursuit of any sport is bound to be coupled with physical injury as well as emotional downtimes. Therefore, the pace at which an athlete recovers from these challenges is considered to be critical in determining the quality and consistency of their performance. In this regard, meditation exercises can prove to be extremely useful as they enable you to cope with pain and make you much more resilient in the face of trouble. This is because mindfulness teaches you to detach yourself from negative thoughts and enrich yourself with positive energy. Moreover, meditation also requires you to maintain a healthy diet and overall lifestyle out of respect for your body. One strategy is to eat healthfully and add yogic medicinal drinks such as green tea, turmeric tea or (if you like more flavour) herbal fruit tea to your daily diet as they have been proven to relieve stress and increase your immunity.
Fear hijacks the mind from the present and puts people in various forms of doubt; something that can be extremely detrimental to an athlete's performance during a race. It is for this reason that we see athletes worldwide making use of meditation techniques to help reduce fear by calming the amygdala i.e. the fear centre of the brain. In the world of sports where a spilt-second decision can determine your destiny; it makes all the sense to capitalize on mindful meditation so as to unleash the full potential of your body as well as mind.
Author Bio: Evie harrison is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs. Find her on Twitter:@iamevieharrisonYou can find the recommended teas and several other herbal concoctions on Buddhasherbs.com.
Evie harrison is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.