Benefits of Meditation on Health
There are many mindfulness benefits for athletes associated with meditation whether you are a professional athlete, a college athlete, sports enthusiast, or an everyday person – meditation benefits all! It has been proven to reduce stress levels in people who suffer from chronic pain, mental health concerns, or anxiety disorders. There have also been studies that show that meditation can be beneficial for those suffering from depression as well.
The most important benefit of meditation is its ability to increase focus and attention span and expand your awareness. This means that when you meditate regularly, your brain will become more focused and attentive than if you were not doing any form of meditation at all.
The importance of mindfulness and sports meditation for professional athletes
According to some researchers, the use of mindfulness techniques could be considered as part of the “toolbox” of every athlete. The idea of having a sports psychologist or other mental health professionals as part of a sporting team is becoming more common. The reason why? Because they allow you to better understand your own limits and strengths, allowing you to make decisions about what’s important and what isn’t. They help you to focus on the present moment without being distracted by thoughts of the past or future. Competitiveness in sports increasingly depends on psychological factors and many athletes recently have opened up about their own mental health struggles and the lack of support or mental health care.
How does mindfulness or mindful meditation work for athletes?
It’s true that you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk to meditate! Meditation is simply a technique used to achieve inner peace and tranquility through self-reflection. This means being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judgment.
There are different types of meditation, each designed to suit certain needs and it is less about the type of meditation you practice but more about the intention you instill.
Mindfulness or meditation is hugely beneficial for an athlete and vastly increases the chance of optimal performance. Due to the high-pressure environment that an athlete works in it is of utmost importance to keep their mind and mental health strong, as much as their body. Mindfulness can help to overcome challenges, obstacles and gain new perspectives towards achieving higher performance.
Sports results are pushing athletes to ever-higher standards, forcing them to perform always better. This results in ever-increasing mental and physical pressure. Consequently, psychology in sports must improve and progress, to find new methods and tools to cope with the stress to which athletes are subjected. Sports psychology has long changed its performance-oriented approach, steering toward others that allow new and healthier ways to deal with negative thoughts, fears and mental obstacles. (technogym.com)
Mindfulness and sport: neuroplasticity
It’s necessary to decrease negative thoughts in order to improve sports performance. Positive mental states that give greater security and self-esteem can then be achieved. Using techniques such as neuroplasticity, sports psychology is trying to control the negative states as it refers to creating new thought patterns.
As mentioned above, mindfulness is a form of meditative technique based on awareness of what happens inside and outside oneself. It consists of paying attention to every moment without judgment, accepting things just as they are, without wanting anything else. This means being aware of thoughts, feelings, sensations, emotions, sounds, smells, tastes, movements, etc. while maintaining a state of calmness and tranquility.
This is important for athletes or anybody involved in high-performance sport to realize as a ‘doing’ state comes naturally to them. However simply ‘being’ is something that has to be practiced. It is in the state of being however where the act of doing becomes more efficient.
Furthermore, the method of meditation is used to reduce stress and increase well-being which ultimately keeps an athlete injury-free and prolongs their careers.
The present moment, absence of judgment, and direct knowledge are three different states of mind that must be respected when meditating. Many scientific studies show the benefits of practicing meditation, as it has rapidly spread in our society.
For example, a 2008 study by Kee and Wang on a group of 183 university athletes from 23 sports showed that mindfulness groups had an improvement in balance, concentration, control and awareness. To that extent, it is essential to introduce the concept of neuroplasticity, defined as the ability of the brain to modify its functional and physical anatomy in response to repeated activity requests. Researches have shown that mindfulness meditation can induce structural changes in the brain and alter the brain region’s activity (Marks, 2008). (technogym.com)
15 Reasons Why Every Athlete Should Meditate
1. Helps to control nerves, anxiety, adrenaline, and fears
It’s a great way to relax and de-stress before an important event, like a big race or competition. It’s no surprise then that meditation has been used successfully to treat anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and phobias.
2. Reduces stress levels to benefit overall health
Meditation is good for your health because it reduces stress levels which means less heart disease and other illnesses or injuries that might be caused during periods of overtraining.
3. Improves focus, awareness, and concentration
You’ll learn how to focus better so that you’re more productive and efficient as an athlete. This is where an athlete is said to be in ‘the zone’. Mindfulness helps to train yourself to control your attention and place it on task-relevant items.
4. Changes perspectives by changing thought patterns
When you meditate regularly, you get into a positive mindset of “I am” instead of being stuck on negative thoughts about yourself or others this results in a boost of confidence and self-esteem which allows your performance to improve too.
5. Helps to stabilize emotions
Emotions can often run high in competitive sport and acting irrationally as a result could be common. Mindfulness practices allow us to regulate our emotions as we learn to channel our emotions in different ways.
6. Reduces the mind from ruminating
Meditation can help an athlete to be aware of thoughts without attachment or overthinking. This can give clarity on a game plan and have a clear goal in mind. A ruminating mind is often a common cause of anxiety.
7. Enhancing Athletic Endurance Through Meditation
Meditating improves your circulation and heart health as you experience improved breathing techniques which result in increasing your lung capacity and decreasing your blood pressure through breathwork. This means that our oxygen uptake increases which are more readily available for the muscles to perform optimally during athletic activity. This is known as our VO2 max and studies have shown that this can be greatly influenced by training the lungs and mind through intrinsic mindful work as much as it can affect our endurance by training the body externally through cardiovascular activity.
8. Improves sleep patterns and speeding recovery time
Meditation is known to guide you into a deeper sleep and prevent insomnia. The phase of deep sleep is where our body repairs and recovers itself from training. Therefore the more time we spend in this phase the more efficient our recovery will be, which ultimately enhances our performance.
9. Helps deal with fear
Meditation can help you deal with the fears of life which could hold you back from taking chances and advancing in your athletic performance and careers. This is also related to performance anxiety.
10. Improves sense of identity, self, and the body
Meditation in sport can greatly improve your mind-body connection.
It helps us connect with ourselves by allowing us to become fully conscious of our bodies and senses. It allows us to see things clearly and objectively rather than being clouded by emotion or bias. In this way, we gain greater awareness of our own selves and our surroundings. We begin to understand where we fit within the world around us.
This also leads to an increase in proprioception and coordination as we have a greater awareness of where our bodies are in space. Two elements that are very important in sports such as dancing, gymnastics, etc.
11. Meditation in Sport Can Help Athletes Conquer Mental Blocks
Mindfulness practices allow us to see things from a different perspective which helps us move through mental obstacles that might hinder our performance such as; self-doubt, past trauma, previous failures, previous injuries, pressure and expectations, lack of BMT (Big Match Temperament), etc.
12. Helps cope with pain and prevent injury
It allows us to become more conscious about ourselves and our bodies. It gives us insight into why we feel a certain way or behave in a specific manner. We begin to understand where our strengths lie and weaknesses exist. In this state of awareness, we can make changes to enhance our performance.
The benefits of mindfulness go beyond just improving mental clarity and emotional stability; there are numerous physiological advantages too!
When we are more in tune with our body we can make more rational decisions on how to take care of it. Meditation is also known to reduce feelings of pain as it reduces physical inflammation in the body.
13. Improved cardiovascular health
As stated above it lowers blood pressure and increases lung capacity or oxygen uptake which are two fundamental parts of our cardiovascular system. Research shows that regular meditation reduces blood pressure by up to 10% within 6 months.
14. Strengthens the immune system
By reducing overall stress we strengthen our immune system. Preventing colds and illness is important for an athlete for optimal training and not missing out on any big events that could elevate your career.
15. Increases resiliency and ‘mental toughness’
At an elite level, this is very important in order to channel the right energy into the competition or event. It allows you to ignore criticism and judgments that don’t serve you or your athletic performance and empowers you to make decisions that are right for you.
It doesn’t matter what sport you play, any athlete can benefit from the positive benefits of meditation. Meditation research on athletic performance is still very much in its infancy. However, meditation has been shown to help in other areas that could relate to athletic performance. (huffpost.com)
All in all, I think that if you’re looking at getting started with meditating then start small. You don’t need to spend hours every day doing so but even 5 minutes will do wonders for your life and athletic performance. The world of mental health for athletes is only starting to come to the surface now and the importance of looking after your mental health as much as looking after your physical health should be emphasized in the sporting and performing world as much as possible.