When people usually think of meditation, they think of some strange religious spiritual practice where you light candles and make “ommmmm” noises to enlighten yourself. As much as this is a real thing in some cultures, meditation is actually a proven beneficial mental training that can improve all areas of your life, including your athletic performance.
Think of your mind like your teeth. Throughout the day, your teeth come into contact with so many bacteria from the food, drinks etc. Those bacteria lock themselves onto your teeth, and if you didn’t do anything about it, they would eat away at each tooth, and eventually your teeth would be weak and probably fall out. Instead, you brush your teeth in the morning and at night, to scrub away all that bacteria and bad stuff so that your teeth are healthy and can perform their best.
In a way, your mind has a similar experience. You go about your day, taking in so much information, some positive, but a lot of negative too. Did you know that you have on average 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day, of which 70% of them are usually negative? These dominating negative thoughts can lead to negative performances, but there are ways to balance your thinking for a more positive outcome.
Sometimes we hear negative opinions from others, aimed directly at us that stay in our minds, but we also have a tendency to keep the indirect negative messages stored away too in our subconscious. Whether it be overhearing a negative conversation that annoyed you, or maybe you just heard something depressing on the news, your brain processes all of it and stores it.
Just like brushing our teeth to get the bad things out of our mouth, it’s important that we have a “mental brushing” to try and clear out some of the bad things out of our minds too. This is where meditation can be a game changer.
Meditation is allowing yourself to spend a few moments really listening to your thoughts. Sometimes we are so busy going about our day that we don’t even realise what’s going on in our minds yet it’s having such an impact on our performance. Taking 10-15 minutes out of your day to just sit with yourself can make such a difference to the course of your day.
So how do you meditate? Here are some simple steps:
1. Find somewhere quiet to sit and take the weight off your feet. Put in your headphones if necessary and listen to something relaxing so you can cut out the noise going on around you.
2. Put your phone on do not disturb, and remove anything that might distract you.
3. Breathe deep to get some oxygen to your brain, try exhaling for 7 seconds and inhaling for 7 seconds. Close your eyes for better effect.
4. Consciously start to work out how your current mindset is in that moment. Are you angry about something? Are you thinking about some mistake you made that your struggling to move past? Imagine all your thoughts are like little bubbles floating around your head, and each time you think of something negative, imagine that bubble floating away into the distance.
5. Now start to purposefully think of some positive moments in your life. Think of the last time you did something amazing on the football pitch, doesn’t matter how long ago it was. Play that memory over a couple of times in your mind, and then find another one. Start to think of things you would like to achieve this week. Imagine yourself scoring a great goal in training, or playing that perfect through ball, or pulling a fantastic skill move to get past the defender. Imagine each of those thoughts like a bubble once again, but instead of them floating away, imagine that they are entering into your mind and staying there.
Continue to breathe deeply and replace as many negative thoughts with positive ones. Remember, your mind and body are connected. What the mind believes, it shown in your actions. If your mind is full of negative thoughts, your actions will be negative, but if your thoughts are positive, it will show in your actions. You’ll notice after spending 10-15 minutes doing this exercise you’ll instantly feel more positive, you’ll feel motivated and lots of that negative weight you were carrying around will be instantly lifted from your shoulders.
Remember, as important as it is to be physically well trained in order to perform well, being mentally in shape is just as important. The body won’t perform it’s best without the mind performing it’s best, so make sure you are training both daily.