Do you suffer with sports performance anxiety? Those pre-event nerves that can hinder your ability to think straight, undermine weeks of training and impair your enjoyment of your sport? If so, help may be at hand from an unlikely source.
Meditation, which has long since been recognized for its mental benefits, is increasingly being tested in the sporting arena, with promising results. To understand why meditation can help, it’s worth understanding the way that the brain functions during sports performance.
According to Sian Beilock, associate professor of psychology, and author of “Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To” (Free Press, 2010), many physical activities are best performed from your “procedural memory”.1 This is the memory that, after many hours of training, stores the motor skills so that your body can act almost outside of conscious awareness and instruction. Overthinking a common response to anxiety can reduce your ability to work from your procedural memory. In essence, nerves make you think more like a beginner, which is the opposite of what you want during your event.
Beilock also explains that there are other times during an event when you need your decision making skills and reasoning to be at full power. But again, nerves tend not to help here. Thoughts of risk, failure or threat can distract you, diminishing your clarity and focus.
But how does meditation help? Here are 5 key ways that meditation can reduce your sports performance anxiety:
1. Meditation reduces overall levels of 2 This means that in the run up to an event, your nerves are kept under control, allowing you to stay calm, rather than working yourself into a frenzy.
2. Meditation trains your brain not to dwell on the By developing the ability to recognize negative thoughts and let them go, they lose their power over you. This frees up your head-space to focus on your performance in a positive way.
3. Meditation helps you to consciously respond more positively to your Researchers have found that it is not stress itself which has a negative impact on you, but your attitude to it.3 If you choose to see the physical symptoms of stress a racing heart or sweaty palms as your body preparing you for maximum performance, then the stress response may actually sharpen your winning edge.
4. Meditation allows you to center Many athletes use meditation to help them to focus and set positive intentions before games.4 Meditation can form a crucial part of a pre-event ritual, where you visualize success and cultivate the mental positiveness and confidence that will help you to achieve it.
5. Meditation helps you to stay So much of sports performance anxiety is related to being out of the moment. Either you worry about the past Did I train enough? Am I doing worse than last time? or the future What could go wrong? What happens if I fail? But to perform at your best, you need to be absolutely present in the moment. Meditation is the ideal practice to help you to cultivate that focus and mindfulness.
It’s also worth remembering that sports performance anxiety is rarely a once in a lifetime experience. Meditation teaches you to take control of your thoughts, which can help you to bounce back mentally from each event. You can choose to take the positive learning with you, and eliminate futile ruminations on any mistakes. Over time, this not only helps you to reduce performance anxiety, but actively improves your performance.References:
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