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Mindfulness in sport: applications and advantages

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For many decades, the sports psychology has depended on the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in order to control and modify the psychological variables that intervene in the sports performance. Recently, the philosophy and praxis of Mindfulness It has aroused great interest among sports psychologists, as it seems to contribute to a better psychological predisposition on the part of athletes who practice it.

The application of Mindfulness in sport

But, first of all, we are going to answer a basic question: what exactly is "Mindfulness"?

Mindfulness It means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. To know more about the Mindfulness practice, we invite you to visit our article “Mindfulness: 8 benefits of mindfulness”.

Mindfulness improves sports performance

When talking about improving athletic performance, many people think only of the physical variables, However the psychological component It's very important. Although the role of sports psychologist

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is unknown by many individuals, more and more teams and athletes hire the services of a psychologist aware of the benefits it brings in different aspects of sports performance, training or relationships interpersonal.

The correct combination of cognitive, affective, physiological conditions, allows an optimal state of performance in sport, similar to what we understand as Flow status, but applied to the field of sports.

Mindfulness and important psychological variables for better sports performance

There are many psychological variables (motivation, level of activation, stress, etc.) that are going to be decisive for the optimal performance of an athlete, and many are the investigations that have demonstrated their incidence on the athletes. These variables also make up other important variables (for example, within the variable self-efficacy, the perception of control) that will also affect the individual's athletic performance.

It is important to note that these variables are related to each other. For example, the variable stress can affect the variable level of activation, or the variable level of activation the variable attention (and vice versa). Mindfulness, directly or indirectly, will influence many of these variables, such as: stress, activation level, attention, etc.

On the other hand, Mindfulness will also positively influence the self-esteem and in the self-confidence of an athlete, since the "non-judgmental" interpretation characteristic of this practice will be positive when it comes to interpreting successes and failures. This is also important for young athletes, because educating them with Mindfulness at an early age can affect their future well-being.

In addition, Mindfulness practice it will be beneficial in interpersonal relationships and team cohesion, a determining factor in team sports.

Emotional management and Mindfulness in sport

Unlike Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which assumes the idea that the best sports performance is based on self-control or behavior change, Mindfulness focuses on the idea that optimal performance is a state that emerges from the acceptance of thoughts, emotions and sensations without trying to eliminate or modify them, you simply have to observe them in a non-judgmental way.

The acceptance of emotions causes an improvement both in attention and in the level of activation, since emotions are not interpreted as negative (even those emotions that are part of the stress). The emotional self-knowledge that is acquired with Mindfulness and the correct emotional regulation As a result of this self-knowledge and of "being in the present", it fosters an ideal state of sports performance. The athlete who practices Mindfulness in sport is in “Flow status”Because his body and mind are in tune.

The Flow status in mindfulness

People who habitually use Mindfulness, stop reasoning, control and ruminate everything that affects them in a negative way, to merge into a process of acceptance, which brings with it a union between body and mind, a union with the present. The athlete observes what he feels and what he thinks without further importance, and he increases his concentration considerably. The thoughts and emotions are allowed to pass, without giving them meaning or value, achieving a distance with them since they are not controlled, they are only accepted.

Time is invested in the present: in the awareness of the moment, in bodily sensations and in the State of Flow. That is, energy is not invested in concerns or future expectations, and in this way better sports performance is achieved.

Mindfulness and sports injuries

Mindfulness has been applied in numerous fields with benefits in variables such as stress management, pain or quality of life. But in the field of sport psychology it is not only being used to improve stress management and improving the performance of athletes, but is also being implemented with injured athletes.

The sports injuries have negative consequences for the mental well-being of athletes, as they cause resulting psychological symptoms (afraid, go to, low self-esteem, sadness, etc.) that can have a significant impact on proper recovery. In fact, these psychological factors can contribute to poor adherence to treatment, a reduction of sports performance in the rehabilitation phase, and cause, even the abandonment of the practice.

Solé, Bruno, Serpa and Palmi (2014), in their article “Applications of Mindfulness (mindfulness) in sports injury”, Published in the Journal of Sports Psychology, recommend the progressive introduction of Mindfulness in the prevention and rehabilitation of sports injuries, as it has been shown that its contribution can be very useful, since it manages to improve the following variables: balance in sports action, anxiety pre-competition, post-injury emotional reactivity, pain control, communication necessary for the athlete to improve the relationship with their environment and their medical team, adherence to the established recovery program, attention span and improvement of coping.

Bibliographic references:

  • Solé S., Carrança B., Serpa S. and Palmi J. (2014) Applications of mindfulness (mindfulness) in sports injury. Journal of Sports Psychology, 23 (2), 501-508
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