In a recent Huffington Post article, psychotherapist Ira Israel provides insight on an ancient practice that can be used as a powerful mental tool for any athlete: mindfulness meditation. Israel describes mindfulness meditation as the ability to observe your own thoughts in real time.
By removing yourself from your own head, Israel argues, you are able to get away from constant mental chatter and become calm and focused when it matters most. In a game situation, learning to disassociate yourself from your thoughts and live fully in the moment could be the difference between making a penalty kick or clanking it off the top bar.
Although mindfulness meditation is simple to explain, Israel admits it's difficult to put into practice, since you can't tell your mind what not to think about. If you tell yourself to stop thinking about something, you automatically think about it. So, how can you learn to just observe your thoughts?
How to Practice Mindfulness Mediation
Israel suggests taking the time to calm your mind before trying to watch your thoughts pass by. Don't worry about the outcome of the experiment; whenever you get frustrated, just go back to relaxing and try again. Don't treat mindfulness meditation as a drill with a specific goal; think of it as a way to relax and avoid negative thoughts.
If you're able to get into a state of mindfulness meditation for even a few seconds, you'll have acquired a valuable tool you can use when the game is on the line. Instead of psyching yourself out by thinking about the outcome of a bad shot, you'll be able to rely on your practice and live in the moment.
In pressure situations, most athletes tend to think too much, which can lead to doubts, loss of confidence and shaky mechanics. Practice mindfulness meditation every day, and next time you're in a big spot, you'll be able to mentally step away from the situation and sink that game-winning free throw.
Ready to take your mental game to the next level? Check out more sports psych tips from STACK's roster of experts.