Much is being talked about mindfulness and how it helps to improve performance and alleviate stress. Research supports that becoming mindful plays a very important role in staying in the zone, as athletes call it. But, what is being mindful?
Mindfulness is no other experience than that of being aware of our present moment. Have you ever slowed down to really taste the pizza or salad you are eating? Have you paid real attention to the smell of the tennis court? Do you notice each one of your steps you take as you walk? All these activities are done on a regular basis, but we seldom pay enough attention to them. We tend to assume that those moments just are, as if we took them for granted. We tend to live in a very fast pace and we rarely slow down. If we were to slow down, our perception of being witness of those experiences would provide us with a much greater appreciation for what we are doing. Our chewing would slow down enough to really taste the different flavors in our mouth. Paying attention to how we walk would promote a greater appreciation for not only how we walk, but also what our surroundings look like.
When it comes to performance, mindfulness allows us to slow down enough so that our senses can fully take in our experiences. When we walk on the golf course, the walk would be slower and our observation of the landscape would be more noticeable. As a consequence, our heart and breathing would slow down and our nervous system would get the opportunity to re-set before the next shot is executed. If we run, the pounding on the street would more likely be softer. If we played tennis, we would become more aware of the quality of the grip on the racquet. We may even notice that we are tightening it too much; such an awareness may lead us to wanting to loosen it up, which would greatly benefit the harmony of the stroke.
Mindfulness is not just about breathing in silence for 15 minutes. These simple experiences of awareness invite the opportunity be more in the moment, and consequently, promote in the zone experiences.
To be a mindful athlete:
- Be more aware of the routines you use or the environment around you. Just slow down a bit and become a participant of the experience rather than thriving to always living on the fast lane.
- Set a goal to become mindful of one action or environment each day. Just notice without judgement what that experience was like.