Mindfulness and spirituality are topics that seem to be increasing in popularity. The number of books and courses giving information on how to meditate and achieve mindfulness is now rife and with good reason. Psychological well-being is equally, if not more important than physical well-being and by neglecting your psychological health you run the risk of long-term problems. With extreme overstimulation from electronic equipment and heavier workloads, there is a tendency for people to not ‘switch off’ resulting in late nights and sleep deprivation. One way to quite to mind is through meditation which can help bring stillness, calm, and clarity. Meditation has been used for thousands of years and is one of the most, if not the most, effective ways to quiet the mind and achieve calm.
What is meditation?
One of the most common misconceptions of meditation is that meditation is focusing on something that brings peace or mental concentration with the end aim of slowing down and stopping the noise of the mind. While there are benefits to quieting the mind, this is not what meditation is. Meditation is a state of deep peace but awareness. Authentic meditation allows us to focus on the present moment rather than dwelling on the future or the past. The essence of meditation is to bring yourself into the moment without the distraction of outside influences. By focusing on quieting your mind, your predominant focus is on your thoughts so the chance of quieting them will be less because you’re focusing on them! However, focusing on something such as your breathing will be default move your attention from your thoughts and instead focus it on your breath and by default bring you into the present. Doing this means someone can be meditating while at work, on the bus or anywhere they can bring themselves into the moment.
What happens when you meditate?
A Harvard study sought to determine the impacts of meditating on the human brain. Sara Lazar enrolled her team of 16 subjects in an eight-week mindfulness program to see if meditation, over a short period of time, could begin to create changes in lifestyle and the brain.
The subjects were given a 45-minute guided mindfulness exercise to be used daily and they were encouraged to do various daily activities with as much mindfulness as possible. On average the subjects performed about 27 minutes of mindfulness each day.
Britta Hölzel, the lead author on the paper says, “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation, we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”
One of the biggest things that happen to our brains when we meditate is that it stops processing so much information. Beta waves generally indicate the processing of information. When beta waves are decreased, we see a decrease in information processed. Beta brain waves decreased.
How do you meditate and meditate effectively?
Methods of meditation…
- Breathing practice: One of the simplest methods of meditation is to simply focus on your breathing. To do this sit in a comfortable position and focus on the movement of the breath in and out of the body.
- Repeating mantras: Mantra meditation is done by first choosing a quote, phrase, or word that inspires you. Then, sit quietly for a few minutes as you repeat the mantra in your head 10 times. Repeat it silently as you move your lips, suggests “Yoga Journal.” Then, try repeating it 10 more times in your head without moving your lips.
- Positive Visualisation: If you find that sitting quietly isn’t helping your meditation practices or your game, positive visualisation can be a huge part of pre-game preparation. Positive visualisation involves picturing some of the circumstances that may occur during the game or match and visualising the response. “Sports Psychology Today” suggests picturing a positive outcome and what you will get from the game or match as this will help focus you on the moment and reduce nerves.
The most effective way to meditate is to do it first thing in the morning. By meditating first thing in the morning you increase its effectiveness and ensure you have the determination and focus on this practice. By leaving meditation until later in the day you run the risk of becoming too busy to ensure it happens. To help grow and increase the amount of meditation you do on a daily basis, it is best to start at 2 minutes per day and increase the amount of time you spend doing so on a daily or weekly basis of a minute or two.
What are the benefits of meditation?
There are a number of benefits from meditating…
- Stress reduction
- Reduced illnesses and health care
- Improved motivation and dedication
- Improved pain tolerance
- Greater focus and commitment to exercise
- Stronger immune system
- Meditation stops the mind from ruminating and reduces the focus on the recent position
- Better sleep
- Increased grey matter in the brain
- Greater creativity
- More compassion
Sporting benefits of meditation?
Meditation has a number of benefits to the athlete. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology recently found that athletes who practice mindful meditation techniques are far more motivated to exercise regularly and more satisfied with their workouts than less-mindful dudes. They also sleep better, says a new JAMA study.
As an athlete or performer of any type, the ability to modulate and control thoughts of pain and emotions can give a competitive edge and improve performance outcomes. For example, in the heat of the moment, if an athlete can recognize unproductive thoughts and redirect the thought through mindfulness training, anxiety and body tension will reduce helping the athlete to enhance performance.
Sporting stars and others who meditate…
- Phil Jackson – 11 x NBA Championship Coach
- Kobe Bryant
- Joe Namath
- Michael Jordon
- Lebron James
- Oprah Winfrey
- Steve Jobs
- Katy Perry
- Hugh Jackman