In our day-to-day lives, we can become preoccupied with our responsibilities and lose sight of the focus we need to thrive in the present moment.
Respond to these distractions through mindfulness, a practice that allows us to pay full attention to our feelings so that we achieve a clearer, healthier state of mind.
Athletes in particular benefit from mindfulness in sport, but it can also be a powerful ally to athletes as they take on second careers and enter new worlds of work.
Athlete Career Transition Performance Psychologist, Odette Hornby explains more.
Being mindful involves connecting to how our body feels – being present in the moment. For athletes, mindfulness brings a sense of calm and improves ability to focus in the midst of demanding schedules; it puts them in greater touch with the needs of body and mind, allowing them to adjust training and competition schedules to best effect.
As athletes move away from professional sport, they can lose sight of the power of mindfulness and its many benefits. But mindfulness is wholly transferable to new working contexts. It enables practitioners to switch off from work, improve overall well-being, reduce stress, and enhance self-awareness.
Mindfulness can be built by paying more attention to your thoughts through reflection and devoting time to yourself.
To start, athletes should not try to do everything at once, but identify small achievable goals. Move the process forward by setting aside two evenings a week, just for five minutes each time to spend on personal reflection. It may be useful to write down thoughts during this period.
Meditation is a great way to improve here. A focus on breathing is particularly helpful as it gives a tangible point for your mind to dwell on.
Try to create a relaxing environment that blocks out external distractors and stressors – a space that allows inner thoughts and feelings to come to the fore. Approaches will vary from one individual to another, so it’s important to try different techniques and to find out what feels comfortable for you.
Reading, yoga, or simply going for a walk are some of the established paths to mindfulness; they should take you to a quieter, more reflective state of mind where you will feel more grounded and more distanced from stress.
The benefits of mindfulness
Time spent in this space will leave you calmer, more in tune with yourself, and more able to see the choices that are best for your own wellbeing.
Once you find a technique that works, practice regularly to enhance benefits. The results may not materialise instantly, but over time, you will be rewarded by greater clarity and a mind-set that is not easily destabilised by issues that are beyond your control.
In the workplace, mindfulness allows us to escape day-to-day anxieties and apprehensions so that we may give our whole selves to the present time and the challenges that lay before us. Successful mindfulness also brings higher levels of concentration, greater governance over our emotions and better understanding of our capabilities.
Ultimately, mindfulness allows us to perform to our full potential. It’s a valuable tool for athletes aiming to be the best version of themselves.
Mindfulness key points
How to develop mindfulness
Stop trying to achieve all your goals at once
Set aside time for personal reflection
Practice in a quiet space, away from external stressors
Consider exercises that slow down your mind, such as yoga, reading or going for a walk
Writing thoughts and feelings in a diary or journal will take heavy emotions out of your head, enabling you to think more clearly
Benefits of mindfulness
Calmer, clearer state of mind
Stronger powers of focus
Less vulnerability to stress
Better mental wellbeing
Enhanced performance over time