Bigger. Stronger. Faster. It’s the holy trinity of sports that we’re all chasing. But what about our mindset? What’s going on between our ears often dictates whether we rise to the occasion or crumble under pressure. The benefits of mindfulness are plentiful, with hundreds of studies praising its efficacy. An intentional mindfulness routine can be the missing link to our game, taking us from good to great. Let’s explore these three daily routines to incorporate mindfulness into our lives as athletes.
Start your Day with a Purpose
Upon waking, sit down in a comfortable position in a place where you won’t be disturbed (sorry, no phones here!). This can be on the edge of your bed, on a chair, or even on the ground. Begin by taking a deep breath, in through your nose and out through your mouth. This should be done to a count of 4-5 seconds upon inhalation, hold for 4-5 seconds, and exhale for 4-5 seconds. Repeat this sequence three times.
Ask yourself, “What is my intention for today?” Think about what you will face throughout your day. Some prompts that you can use are, “What do I want to strengthen or develop?” or “How can I get 1% better today?” Come up with a short mantra that aligns with your intention and repeat it throughout the day. Examples include, “Right here, right now” or “I’ve got this.”
This positive self-talk practice will train your brain so that you can focus on the present moment and rid yourself of negative internal dialogue.
Write your Narrative
You have the ability to be the author of your own narrative. Be intentional about pausing throughout the day and reminding yourself of what you are capable of. Observe your breathing and repeat the mindful breath activity above. Turn daily activities into cues that remind you to undergo a mindful reset. An effective reminder tool can be creating an “If/Then” message. An example would be if you look at your shoes, then take a deep breath and repeat your mantra. These small pauses help to rewire your brain and change the narrative of your inner critic. “I hope I don’t miss this shot” becomes “I’ve got this.”
Live in the Moment
We, as athletes, need to have a short memory, especially in the heat of competition. It’s okay to notice our negative thoughts and emotions, but we don’t want to bring them into the next play. Mindful meditation can help to bring awareness to the present moment so that when that game-winning shot comes up, we’re able to perform, free of distractions and self-doubt.
A body scan is a great way to quiet your mind and bring awareness to your body. It is a systematic scan, starting with your toes and working up to your head. This can be done either sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your breathing return to normal before beginning your scan. Check-in with your toes. How do they feel? Are they warm or cold? Any aches or pains? Repeat this process, moving up the legs until you reach your head. Breathe into any discomfort, noticing any sensations you may feel. This body awareness will keep you grounded and focused on the here and now.
Visualize success and harness the power of your mind. Never underestimate yourself, and believe that you are truly capable of anything. Ride the highs and manage the lows of your sport, and life for that matter. Incorporate these three routines into your daily life to enhance your mental game!
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