As an athlete, being at the top of your game doesn’t only involve hours of practice and dedication to the weight room. There are mental capacities that need honing in order to heighten performance. While being a top-notch sports player is a physical feat, the mental game is just as important. When athletes become more aware of their bodies, they also build inner resilience to handle stress, which unlocks elevated performance levels. In essence, mindfulness training can grow the inner capacities of distress tolerance, present-moment awareness, and acute focus to fuel what athletes seek most—results.
What is mindfulness anyhow? Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness of the present moment, intentionally and without judgment. Although mindfulness originated from Buddhism in the East, we’re now utilizing secular mindfulness in various domains of life here in the West. Studies in neuroscience show that a consistent mindfulness practice grows new neural pathways that support focus and emotional regulation in addition to decreasing matter density in areas of the brain that encode negative emotions, such as the amygdala. In effect, if we make a mistake on the court or field, and our mind is still ruminating in self-judgment about this failure, we’re less present and more likely to repeat mistakes moving forward in the game.