How mindfulness can give you the sporting edge

Are you looking to give your sport that extra special edge? Perhaps you need help competing with the extreme pressure ahead of a big game.

It is thought that 90 per cent of a person’s sports performance is mental but how much time do you invest in it?

Mindfulness techniques have been around for centuries but are increasingly being taken seriously in the world of sport.

Here Richard Graham, Programme Director of Nuffield Chester, gives his top 10 mindfulness tips:

  • Start with WHY? Why do YOU want to learn about mindfulness and why do YOU feel it would be of benefit.  It is really central to any sort of behaviour change for you to have a strong ‘why’.  Mindfulness can help with a broad range of symptoms and can help you to deal with many effects of stress, but to make it personal you need to start with what you want to work on.
  • Try an app. There are some great apps out there to help you to learn and develop your mindfulness practice. Mindlab and Headspace are really good and are normally free to install and use initially. Top tip: if you work through their courses they may charge you.
  • Read all about it. I found that the work and books of Jon Kabat-Zinn were hugely valuable to me in not only understanding mindfulness but also to understand how I can make it work in my life and to be ok with not having the time to commit 45-60 mins a day to the practice.  I would recommend ‘Full Catastrophe Living’ and ‘Wherever You Go, There You Are’.
  • Breathing. If you are new to meditation, your rhythmical, regular breathing is a great and important tool to keep you in a good place to meditate.  It can also help you to return to a serene state if your mind wanders. If you haven’t tried it, have a go at Diaphragmatic Breathing – it is a great way to relax during practice.
  • Practice. It is called mindfulness practice, as that is what is required. Expect that each time you practice it will be slightly different. But that is ok.  If you don’t feel very good at it, that’s fine too. That’s why we practice!
  • Give what time you can. As with any ‘addition’ to your life, it is common for people to sometimes think they don’t have the time to do it. But remember, the chances are you have time to watch some television or scan social media each day. So why not replace 10 mins of this for some practice.
  • You are central to mindfulness. Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind or about transcendence or becoming a ‘master’. It is all about ordering and becoming aware of and allowing time for your thoughts so that you feel that you have an organised, spacious and calm mind. This takes time. Here are some other myths –
  • Sports Trackers and watches. If you are a bit of a tech geek like me, you may have a sports tracker watch. Check your settings, as many of these have a mindfulness setting. Give one of these a go. It’s a great way to track your results.
  • Make new habits. The best results from mindfulness come when it is habitual. Research suggests that habits form between 66-80 days of regular practice, so don’t be hard on yourself and expect immediate results. The changes will be gradual and some you may not expect. I know from my experience that I have become better at dealing with challenging situations since I began my practice 10 years ago. I am far from perfect, but it has helped me to improve!
  • Be kind to yourself. If you are interested in the foundations of mindfulness and want to learn more about its ancient history, I would recommend reading some of the books of Pema Chodron. She really is fantastic as, despite the Buddhist approach being not exactly mindfulness, it may help you to be reminded that mindfulness is about being kind to yourself. Give yourself time and take a moment in each day to not have to react and to re-focus. Enjoy it!
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