Sport

  • There’s More to Looking After Our Bodies Than Diet and Exercise

    1Let’s just start by saying that a good diet and exercise are super ways to nurture our bodies! However, there is no shortage of advice on eating well and working out, especially at this time of year. Instead, this blog post will look at other, less obvious ways that we can ground ourselves in the body and find more enriching physical experiences.

    Becoming more connected and in tune with our physical bodies is an effective way of becoming more mindful. By bringing more awareness to our physical experience, we naturally come more into the present moment, using our senses as anchors to the here and now. It can also help us adopt a more self-nurturing and self-compassionate approach toward ourselves.

    Mindful Movement

    Mindful movement practices sometimes double up as exercise, for example something like yoga is great for strengthening muscles as well as practicing mindfulness. Yet, there are other ways we can practice mindful movement; ways which focus less on fitness or weight loss, and more on simply enjoying the movement of the body for its own sake.

    Those of us who spend all day at a computer may particularly benefit from connecting with our bodies more. How often do we reach the end of the working day and discover tightness in the shoulders or an achy back? We can be so focussed on our work or studies that we disconnect from the body completely. Yet if we can make a habit of regularly checking in with the body, we can start to give it some more movement and flexibility.

    So right now, tune in for a moment. How does your body feel? Sense into your feet, legs, back, shoulders, even down through your hands to your fingers. Are there any parts of the body that want to stretch or wiggle? If you feel comfortable with it, why not stand up for a moment and get curious about how your body wants to move. Maybe you feel like bending forward to touch the ground, rolling your shoulders, circling your hips, or raising your arms high above your head for a tall stretch. You can’t get this wrong; it’s all about taking notice of your current experience, and meeting it with openness. Notice how any stretching or movements affect your mood or energy levels. Have some fun with it!

    Comfort and Cosiness

    There’s nothing like putting on your favourite pyjama’s and curling up in a freshly made bed to read a good book. Or perhaps your favourite comfort is to wear some fluffy socks as you watch TV with your cat. Whatever makes you feel comfy and cosy, try to regularly do those things for yourself, as a way of treating your body with kindness and care. Bringing mindful attention to these comforts can make them feel even more yummy! Notice how your self-nurturing intentions affect your body.

    Sensory Pleasures

    This could mean so many different things; from finding a shower gel in your favourite scent, to being touched by your partner in certain ways (or touching yourself). Getting to know what feels, smells, looks or sounds good to us, and then consciously giving ourselves those things is important to our well-being, and helps us engage with the physical world around us. We can use these pleasurable sensations as a type of meditation. For example, we can listen to our favourite songs and really notice all the musical elements in the piece, or we can place things around our home that we love the look of, and spend some time admiring the small details of those items. Bringing more awareness to our sensory experiences may even help us start to enjoy things we normally do on auto-pilot, such as brushing our teeth or applying moisturiser to our faces.

    Our bodies don’t need to be perfect in order for us to enjoy the physical world around us. Having fitness or healthy eating goals can be very rewarding, yet by taking the time to look after our bodies in other ways too we can step out of seeing our bodies as a ‘project’ that needs work, and start to simply enjoy the fact that we have a body that can move, feel and have experiences.

    MEDITATIONS:

    Body Scan

    Face Relaxation Meditation

    COURSES/WORKSHOPS:

    Self-Compassion Workshop

    8-Week Mindful Self-Compassion Course

    Eating Awareness Training Workshop

     

  • Applying Mindfulness in Sport

    Sportswritten by Oliver Dixon

    Whilst the hectic, high pressure environment of professional sport might seem like the last place you would expect mindfulness to be utilised, the practice is actually becoming increasingly popular among professional organisations, particularly in the US. Michael Gervais uses it with the Seattle Seahawks, George Mumford has used mindfulness with numerous championship winning NBA teams including the Lakers and Bulls, and Novak Djokovic, who is considered to be one of the greatest tennis players of all time, has described mindfulness as the secret of his success. Here we look at several ways that mindfulness can be applied in sport.

    Improved Focus

    A major issue in sport which leads to poor performance is misplaced focus. This can be caused by ruminating on previous mistakes (e.g. a missed shot), or trying to predict the future. An example of this is when athletes are said to have ‘choked’; surrendering a lead because they felt the pressure, and more than likely have run through hundreds of possible scenarios in their mind for how the rest of the match could pan out.

    Applying techniques such as mindful breathing can help keep you grounded in the present moment. Being more able to move on from mistakes or stop yourself thinking too far ahead ensures that you can stay fully focused on the next play.

    Mindfulness teaches us to become aware of the thoughts we have, not in a judgemental way but to simply recognise and observe them. This awareness is the first step in recognising what you are mentally saying to yourself during sport, and the results might be surprising. You’ll often find just how critical you are; comments you wouldn’t say to other people. When these thoughts are illuminated by awareness it then becomes easier to let them go, or at the very least not believe in them as truth.

    Novak Djokovic commented, “I used to freeze up whenever I made a mistake... Now when I blow a serve or shank a forehand, I still get those flashes of self-doubt but I know how to handle them: I acknowledge the negative thoughts and let them slide by, focusing on the moment.”

    Self-regulation

    The practice of mindfulness helps us cultivate self-regulation of our emotions. The ability to react to another player’s action without emotion is often the difference between a wise decision and one that loses the game. Sport can be a hugely stressful environment, with so many factors being out of your control, and mindfulness practices have been shown to greatly reduce stress.

    Mindfulness also teaches you how to connect your mind and body, through exercises such as progressive muscle relaxation. This heightened mind-body connection means you can be more attuned to signals your body is giving off during sport. For example, you might notice when the red mist begins to descend earlier than before by recognising stress and tension in the muscles, or become aware of a possible muscle injury before it becomes serious.

    Imagery

    One of the most powerful techniques in sport psychology is imagery. By picturing your next shot or game, you can plan responses to different scenarios. However, if practiced incorrectly it can lead to negative results. Incorrect use of imagery usually occurs due to a lack of control of the images you create, and can cause visualisations to be ineffective or even negative. For example, excessively visualising what could go wrong would likely result in a loss of confidence or cause anxiety. Mindfulness can help to increase the level of control you can have over your imagery, through quieting the mind and allowing you to focus on only relevant information. It can also help you utilise all five senses to increase the vividness of the image, increasing the effectiveness of the exercise.

    So next time you’re playing sport and you miss an easy chance, or make a mistake, rather than let negative self-talk and rumination distract you from your game, take a deep breath, centre yourself in the present moment and carry on enjoying the game!