When we think of sports performance, we often focus our attention on the physical ability of the athlete rather than mentality.
According to Dr. Stan Beecham, sports psychologist, director, and founding member of the Leadership Resource Center in Atlanta, anyone can be talented- it is mindset alone that is the primary determinant of success.
Mentality is the foundation on which success is built and can be greatly affected by our mental health.
Our mentality makes up the very fibers of our being; it determines how we feel, behave, achieve, and everything in between.
It is, therefore, crucial to protect the mentality of athletes competing in sports.
WHY MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS IN SPORT
Whether it involves moving clubs, retiring, an upcoming competition, an injury, or a sacrifice of personal freedoms, sport (at any level) offers up challenges and pressures.
Athletes are constantly exposed to intense levels of pressure, scrutiny, and expectation to succeed.
We need only look at Simone Biles’ withdrawal from the 2021 Olympics, citing the need to prioritize and protect her mental health, as an example of the mounting pressure on athletes to succeed.
So, where does mindfulness come in?
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS?
According to Mindful, mindfulness refers to our basic ability to be fully aware of where we are and what we are doing, moving through situations without overwhelm or overreaction to a situation.
In short, it is a set of meditation exercises designed to focus attention and awareness by shutting out external noise; a proactive safeguarding of wellbeing through simply ‘being.’
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF MINDFULNESS IN SPORTS PERFORMANCE?
Mindfulness can be an anchor in times of stress, anxiety, and burnout; helping to push athletes towards success.
Here are 3 ways mindfulness can play a role in sports performance.
- REDUCED STRESS AND ANXIETY
Research shows that the practice of mindfulness reduces stress by activating our parasympathetic nervous system.
This allows our body to switch from our innate stress response, known as ‘fight-or-flight’, to rest and repair.
It has the same effect as when we are physically resting, sleeping, and recovering.
This practice also keeps the mind present, which can reduce anxiety related to pre-competition or perceived ‘failed’ past performances. It allows athletes to prepare without the anxiety around fear of the future or the past.
Reduced stress and cortisol levels are also associated with reduced pre-competition stress and a decreased resting heart rate, potentially aiding performance.
- INCREASED AWARENESS
Research indicates that mindfulness can help athletes remain analytical, process personal thoughts and feelings, and strategize.
It might also provide athletes with increased energy and focus by preventing intrusive negative thoughts.
Mindfulness techniques also help to improve self-awareness, reasoning, patience, and tolerance.
These improvements can provide clarity with decision-making and reduce the stress associated with poor sleep.
Athletes can also better access and understand limitations and better understand what their body needs.
Mindfulness can help performers detect negative triggers early, through a heightened sense of awareness, and regulate potential stressors to improve their performance.
- IMPROVED SLEEP AND ENERGY
Meditation and mindfulness practices help relax the body, with research showing a reduction in symptoms of chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Better sleep, better performance!
THE BOTTOM LINE
Having an instrument, as simple as your own body, capable of changing your inner world is an empowering instrument to have!
Find mindfulness practitioners in the wellbeing category of our directory.
 Cited 05.09.21, Believe Perform, https://believeperform.com/mindfulness-improving-sports-performance-reducing-sport-anxiety/
 Cited 09.09.21, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
 Jason C. Ong, PhD, Rachel Manber, PhD, Zindel Segal, PhD, Yinglin Xia, PhD, Shauna Shapiro, PhD, James K. Wyatt, PhD, A Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Insomnia, Sleep, Volume 37, Issue 9, 1 September 2014, Pages 1553–1563, https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4010