Meditation has been around for centuries, but has exploded in popularity over the last ten years or so, especially in the Western world. People of all ages and from every walk of life have picked up the art of mindfulness and have run with it—even athletes.
Some of the most popular athletes in the world use meditation as part of their training and fitness routines, including Lebron James and Derek Jeter. Athletes like Barry Zito and Arthur Ashe also used meditation when they were still competing.
But just how does meditation benefit athletes?
The Mental Side of Sports Competition
The world of professional sports may look glamorous, and the ritzy lifestyles of our favorite athletes may leave us wanting the same, but relatively few of the rest of us realize the stress and mental blocks that can come with the job of a professional athlete.
Regardless of talent, teammates, money, and support from fans, many athletes still fight against one of their biggest opponents every day—their minds. Whether it’s a season opener, a playoff game, or something much larger where there’s more at stake, an athletes’ mind may be spinning, filled with doubts and other negative thoughts.
Over the last 15 years or so, meditation has made its way into the world of sports, and not just the professional arena. Even the men’s basketball team at the University of Michigan has adopted a regular meditation practice!
5 Reasons to Choose Meditation
“Sports are 90% mental and 10% physical.” We’ve all heard that a million times, and it’s true. Regardless of your chosen sport, focus is key to competing well. A lack of focus may cause you to miss that game-winning shot from the free-throw line, that penalty kick at the end of a 90-minute tie, or it may cause you to miss that hail Mary pass at the end of the fourth quarter.
Regular use of meditation offers a number of benefits, including improved focus and alertness (Source), reduced stress levels (Source) and a more positive mood. If you haven’t considered adding meditation to your training and fitness arsenal, you should. Below are some great reasons why.
- Regular meditation may help you better deal with pain. It’s no secret that training and competition can have negative effects on your body. Meditation may help you cope with pain, according to this article from Health.com and CNN.
- It helps keep you focused. Focus is an important part of any sport, and when you can’t focus, your performance suffers. A meditation practice helps improve your ability to focus (Source), which is something every athlete needs at one point or another.
- Meditation helps you get rid of fear. When I was kickboxing and playing hockey, fear was always my biggest enemy. It’s hard to escape the thought that you might not be good enough to win the game or beat your opponent. An article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience states that meditation calms your mind and helps keep the amygdala (the fear center) in your brain calmer, too (Source).
- It helps you stay focused on the present, not the past. Everyone fails as an athlete at one point or another. Failure is part of life for everyone, but the key is to learn from it and let it go. According to the American Psychological Association, a regular meditation practice can help keep your mind focused on the now, rather than allowing it to dwell on the past (Source).
- Meditation helps you become a better athlete. Training and working to get better is a big part of our lives as athletes. We rarely see our own problem areas, though. Meditation may help us understand our own personalities, according to this article from Huffington Post. When that happens, it’s easier to improve as a person and as an athlete.
Meditation provides different benefits for different people. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. Most people meditate for five or ten minutes, some even less than that. The time you spend is entirely up to you. Go ahead and adopt a regular practice. Commit to it, and you’ll see what meditation and mindfulness can do, not only for your performance as an athlete, but for your mental health as well.
Do you use meditation on a regular basis? We’d love to hear how it’s helped you be better. Please leave us a comment below.
If you enjoy these posts, don’t forget to enter your email below to receive all of our posts by email!