Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of your entire body, mind, spirit, and the influence of all on your overall presence. While mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist teachings, it is gaining popularity with the wellness movement all over the world. Being mindful is about more than doing yoga, taking a walk, or even relaxing. With every thought, no matter how simple, you add insight and emotion to color your world. The practice of judgment and putting a label on feelings within your world adds stress and complication to simple tasks. For example, walking to get the mail transforms from a relaxing walk down your driveway to watching your neighbor’s children play in the yard without supervision to the worry about your own children. Mindfulness is awareness without the pretense of labeling, classifying, or categorizing your time in any way. You might think that mindfulness sounds a lot more like doing nothing than an activity you have to practice. A good way to think about mindfulness is to think about being aware. Looking around you and thinking about how you experience the present moment. This allows for the clearing of your mind, as well as your heart. You are in the present and have control of where your thoughts go: either to focusing on the moment (mindful) or moving back to your everyday pattern of life. Realizing you have the power to change the way you experience your own thoughts, feelings, and world, rather than simply participating in life as it goes on.
As a former student-athlete, I have always considered there to be a huge difference between athletes and all “normal people”. We watch their highs and lows on Friday nights during the big game, root for them to get scholarships to play for good schools, and hope that one day, they can take their passion to the next level in professional sports. We eat, sleep, and breathe for the moment when we get to see our child light up after a tough game or when our alma mater beats our hometown rival. Athletes spend countless hours in the gym, practicing the perfect jump shot, strategizing over a playbook, and conditioning to prepare for a game. They obsess over their skill set, teammates, coaches’ opinion, and preparation level each moment of the day. At the end of the season, athletes assimilate back into the lull of offseason athletics and train for the next year. While athletes are just one example, we are all hyphenated people: student-athletes, working mothers, stay at home fathers, best friends, supportive spouses; but overall, we are not that much different than our favorite star players. This means that “sports psychology” is not only for athletes. It is for the rest of us who live our lives as complex people, hyphenated people. In this three part series, we will explore how everyone can benefit from sports psychology tricks and tips for your everyday life.
Why sports psychology does not apply only to athletes:
Reason #1: Sports psychology involves the connection between your mind and body while performing an activity. The interaction between your thoughts, body movements, sensations, and total involvement in a task creates a unique experience that is not only for athletes. This connection can happen when you do anything you are passionate about. All you have to do is realize what your passion is—reading, lifting weights, playing with your children, running, walking your dog, or writing—and do that. The “zone” and “flow” will come faster than you realize if you allow yourself the freedom and pleasure to do what it is that you love.
By Erika McCaghren