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Mindfulness For Sporting Performance

Our thoughts influence our actions and our actions influence our thoughts… each physical movement has a mental component

Dr. Doug Gardner- Sports Psychologist.

Athletes spend the majority of time, effort and money on physical and technical training.  However research shows that despite how physically ready athletes are for competition, their performances may suffer if they do not have control over their minds that psychological factors impact performance such as the ability to:

  • Focus and concentrate
  • Ignore internal distractions – anxiety, fear of failure
  • Ignore external distractions – noises, other people
  • Make decisions at the very time we need to be making good ones
  • Control thoughts – dwelling on past performances and/or worrying about future actions,
  • Have confidence in own ability.

Increased mindfulness helps individuals to become aware of their stressors, reflect on the situation, and act accordingly.  By regulating reactions to potential stressors, the perceived stress is decreased, and by developing an awareness of their breathing, mindful individuals may have calming effects on their sympathetic nervous systems, thus decreasing their resting heart rates .  A lower resting heart rate can lead to improved physical performances due to more efficient heart function and greater endurance, as well as lower perceived exhaustion.

(Hewett et al., 2011)

Mindfulness helps the mind to focus on the present moment by helping to calm the stress response in the brain allowing us to notice our thoughts and emotions without getting attached to them.  Basically it is short-circuiting the body’s stress response by decreasing the resting Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels creating a stronger mind-body connection.

Practising mindfulness trains the part of the brain that creates a calm, alert state of mind, helping us to stay focused, avoid distraction and perform at our best. It can help to generate ‘flow’ – a state of complete focus on the task in hand – which has been linked to enhanced performance.

This heightened sense of awareness of our body and improved communication between the body and mind – helps us to make split second adjustments even before we’re consciously aware of what’s going on – before those factors have a chance to impact performance.