Mindfulness training has been increasingly integrated into sports-peoples’ training routines in recent decades3. The ‘Mindful sport performance enhancement’ (MSPE) approach, for example, incorporates aspects of sitting meditation, mindful breathing, mindful yoga and body scanning. MSPE again aims to promote an objective, non-reactive recognition of one’s physical and emotional state so as to enable the athlete to devote complete attention to the task at hand3. This has been found to enhance mindfulness, ‘flow’ and performance in well-trained cyclists and reduce competition anxiety4. ‘Flow’ refers to a feeling of enhanced physical and psychological functioning devoid of negative thought or distraction4. In the context of cycling, this enables the rider to be completely absorbed in the present moment, dispel pessimistic thoughts or emotions and commit to delivering their optimum performance. Similar interventions have been empirically successful in a wide range of sporting disciplines, including long-distance running, rowing, archery and golf. Long-distance running and rowing, both endurance sports and characterised by repetition, fatigue, increasing pain and negative feelings, reported primarily enhanced concentration and relaxation as well as reduced effects of fatigue and negative thoughts4. This means their heightened mindfulness enabled them to let internal strife enter and exit their minds without unnecessary distraction, but rather focus on factors actually relevant to their performance at that moment such as their breathing, posture and gait or stroke. Archers and golfers found they were better able to concentrate and relax, ignore external sources of distraction (e.g. noise) and they were instilled with greater feelings of confidence and optimism about their shot or stroke to come. Although difficult to quantify the effect of Mindfulness interventions in these settings and prove a causal relationship, these empirical findings give some credence to the utility of Mindfulness-based interventions in enhancing sporting performance by creating athletes that are ‘cool, calm and collected’.
Therefore, it appears that Mindfulness training may be relevant for us all. Given the panicky, multi-tasking, highly-competitive nature of modern living, coupled with the uncertainty and volatile times in which we find ourselves, many of us are stressed, reactive, harbouring negative thoughts or emotions and adopting sub-optimal health-related behaviours that may impair our daily ‘performance’ and place us at a greater risk of disease in years to come. Let us flip the switch, become more mindful of our own mental, psychological and physical states and behaviours, and re-direct ourselves towards a more positive, accepting and healthier path. Start your journey today with SSISA Academy’s Olivia Bloomer and see what a few hours of Mindfulness training per week can do you for you, your health and your performance.
1. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G and Siegel,S. 2005. Stress and Health: Psychological, behavioural, and biological determinants. Annu. Rev.Clin. Psychol. 1: 607-628.
2. Creswell, J.D., Lindsay, E.K., Villalba, D.K., Chin, B. 2019. Mindfulness training and physical health: mechanisms and outcomes. Psychom Med. 81 (3): 224-232.
3. Zhang, C and Baltzell, A. 2019. Towards a contextual approach to athletic performance enhancement: Reflections, perspectives and applications. Journal of sport psychology in action. 10:4 (195-198).
4. Scott-Hamilton, J., Schutte, N., and Brown, R. 2016. Effects of a mindfulness intervention on sports anxiety, pessimism and flow in competitive cyclists. Applied psychology: health and well-being. 8(1):85-103.