Mindfulness has been practiced by humans beginning in ancient times, thousands of years ago. Sometimes it has been part of religious or spiritual practice, or sometimes it was simply a practice unto itself. Only recently have athletes and experts in sports psychology begun to realize the benefits of these practices or techniques for improving game performance, not to mention the general health and life improvements that go with it.
Mindfulness is the focusing of your attention onto one thing in the moment over and over again. What that one thing is totally up to you. The most common focus is your breathing. For moderately capable, it is recommended a thought focus, or body focus. For serious athletes, augmenting with a focus on your sport specific practice or your exercise workout. Focus your attention on your sport activity, nothing else. Your task is to be present and catch yourself when your mind drifts to other things, like what you’re going to eat when you get home, or what so and so said earlier today. When you notice your attention wandering, quickly bring it back to immersion in the task at hand with your sport specific practice.
You will have to do this many times in the course of your practice. At the gym, working out, this would entail staying focused on your movements only within the specific machine, exercise, or weight training device you are performing or using. Not thoughts. The process of this one moment. Yes, this means no Ipods or watching TV while on the treadmill. This means focusing the mind on your body, the rhythm, the movements.
This may sound simplistic…well it is simple, yet it is very difficult to do because our minds are generally undisciplined. What did your mind do today? What happened at the free throw line today? Where was your mind? What was your mind doing while you waited your turn to hit on the golf course? What was your mind doing while running the race? Are you aware?
Mindfulness for Athletes is a Sports Psychology golden nugget
There are numerous ways to strengthen this capacity within yourself. Whether you focus on your breath, on a mantra, on your sports specific movements…it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the consistent practice. You can seek the help of sports psychologist to help you out with mental training. It is similar to working out. If you workout once per week, you get very little benefit. If you practice mindfulness once per week for ten minutes you will get very little benefit. Practicing these focusing techniques for 15-20 minutes twice a day is optimal. You can start with less minutes and gradually work up to 20 minutes over a few weeks. Like building muscle, building attentional capacity takes time and practice. The basic technique of focusing your mind on your heart region, your breathing, and your appreciative image is clearly in alignment with the basic tenants of mindfulness, learning to control your attention.