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Mindfulness in Sports and Performance (Intro)


Powell Cucchiella, LMHC

It would be hard to imagine that the term mindfulness or meditation hasn’t crossed your feed yet. It’s everywhere! It’s in hospitals, schools, major corporations, and within professional sports. And yes, there is good reason for it to be there. Yes, it can help reduce stress and anxiety. Yes, it can help deal with depression or anger. Yes, it can help with feeling more positive emotions like joy and compassion. But most notably, it helps us understand and better relate to your greatest friend or greatest enemy as a performer: your thoughts

Your thoughts dictate your confidence or lack thereof. Your thoughts create motivation or hinder it. Your thoughts are what allow you to look into the future and either see your peak potential or fears and anxieties of events that you hope do not occur. 

You must understand: Your thoughts are incredibly important to confidence and success!

People think thousands of thoughts per day but are usually not aware of them and do not have control of them. Our school system, the very place where children and teens should learn about their thinking, does not address what a thought is or how to manage them. Schools are great at working the mind, testing memory, and the ability to critically think and problem solve; but there is little to no education around how to be aware of and manage the mind. Mindfulness is the critical skill that trains and refines the mind. It is one of our “4 Core” mental skills

 Some Benefits of Mindfulness on Performance

Gives us more control of our mentality and confidence

Reduces stress and other unpleasant emotional states

Triggers present moment play

Improves Focus

Assists in injury recovery

Creates emotional intelligence

Helps us to let go of the past: mistakes and failures 

Helps us to become aware of faulty beliefs, thinking traps, and self-esteem blocks

Like every mental skill, mindfulness is a practice and should be trained. No athlete complains about putting 10 minutes into their physical fitness, technical skills, or tactical development… 10 minutes a day into a mindfulness practice is well worth the reward of confidence, focus and control. 


Mindfulness for Mental Training 

The practice of mindfulness is very simple; yet can be frustrating and difficult when we are not used to it (like any new skill we learn). Mindfulness is the process of focusing your attention on something in the present moment, whether that be your senses, breath, or body; and when your attention gets distracted in some way, just returning your attention back to that point of focus.

Doing this over and over again is kind of like mental reps. If you get distracted 10 times, you refocus 10 times. That’s 10 reps making your attention stronger but also making you more familiar with your thought processes and managing what is going through that wild mind of yours. Training the mind in this way allows us to redirect thinking (self-talk) and belief systems, manage mistakes, let go of failures, and much much more. (Note: We must remember though, like lifting weights, we cannot expect to leave the gym after a core workout and see new 6 pack abs. Mental training takes time and practice to see the benefits.


So how do we do it!?

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, but here is a nice start. Spend 5 minutes paying attention to the flow of air as it comes in and out of your nose. Just feel the sensation of the breath. Cool air in, warm air out. No need to control the rhythm, depth, or pace of the breath. Just watch the breath as it goes in and out, like a witness to it. When your attention wanders away (AND IT WILL!), catch it, and gently return your attention back to the feeling of the breath. We are not trying to keep our thoughts away, we just want to become aware when we get distracted by them and guide ourselves back.

Here is a quick youtube audio that I created if you want some guidance on this specific activity...  https://youtu.be/yDz3ZsHJzxM

Also, if you are looking for a great book on the subject of mindfulness in sport, read "The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance," by George Mumford. George Mumford was the sport psychologist for the Bulls and the Lakers during their championship years. His insights regarding mindfulness and elite athletes is invaluable.

As always, thanks for reading! If you have any questions or want the assistance in developing a  mental training program for yourself or your teenage athlete, reach out to Powell at: [email protected] or fill out the CONTACT US form on the website- positivelyelite.com

Til next time!


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