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Mindfulness in sport: getting athletes in Flow State

Mindfulness in sport: getting athletes in Flow State

April 27, 2024

For many decades, sports psychology has depended on the Behavioral Cognitive Therapy to be able to control and modify the psychological variables that intervene in the sports performance . Recently, the philosophy and praxis of Mindfulness has aroused great interest among sports psychologists, as it seems to contribute to a better psychological predisposition on the part of the 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 judging. To know more about Mindfulness practice, we invite you to visit our article "Mindfulness: 8 benefits of mindfulness".

Mindfulness improves sports performance

When talking about improving sports performance, many people think only about the physical variables , However the psychological component It's very important. Although the role of the sports psychologist is unknown by many individuals, more and more are the teams and athletes who hire the services of a psychologist aware of the benefits it brings in different aspects of sports performance, training or interpersonal relationships .

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

Mindfulness and the important psychological variables for better sports performance

There are many psychological variables (motivation, activation level, stress, etc.) that are going to be decisive for the optimal performance of an athlete, and many are the investigations that have shown their impact on athletes. These variables, in addition, 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 stress variable may affect the activation level variable, or the activation level variable to the care variable (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 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 influence their future well-being.

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

Emotional management and Mindfulness in sport

Unlike Behavioral Cognitive 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 attempting to eliminate or modify them, simply observe them in a non-judgmental manner.

The acceptance of emotions causes an improvement in both the attention and the level of activation, because emotions are not interpreted as negative (even those emotions that are part of stress). The emotional self-knowledge acquired with Mindfulness and the correct emotional regulation resulting from this self-knowledge and "being in the present", propitiates an ideal state of sports performance. The athlete who practices Mindfulness in sport is in "State of Flow", because his body and mind are in tune.

The State of Flow in Mindfulness

People who habitually use Mindfulness, stop reasoning, controlling and ruminating everything that affects them negatively, to merge into an acceptance process, 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 transcendence, and increases his concentration considerably. Thoughts and emotions are allowed to pass, without giving them meaning or value, achieving a distancing with them since they are not controlled, they are only accepted.

Time is reversed in the present: in the consciousness of the moment, in the bodily sensations and in the State of Flow. That is to say, energy is not invested in worries or in future expectations, and in this way a better sport 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 sports psychology 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 they have negative consequences for the mental well-being of the athletes, because they provoke psychological symptoms (fear, anger, low self-esteem, sadness, etc.) that can have a significant impact on the correct recovery. In fact, these psychological factors can contribute to a poor adherence to treatment, a reduction in athletic performance in the rehabilitation phase, and provoke, even the abandonment of the practice.

Solé, Bruno, Serpa and Palmi (2014), in his article "Applications of Mindfulness (full awareness) in sports injury", published in the Magazine of Sports Psychology, recommend the progressive introduction of Mindfulness in the prevention and rehabilitation of sports injuries , because it has been shown that its contribution can be very useful, since it manages to improve the following variables: the balance in the sport action, the pre-competition anxiety, the post-injury emotional reactivity, the pain control, the necessary communication so that the athlete improves the relationship with his environment and his medical team, the adherence to the established recovery program, the attentional capacity and the improvement of coping resources.

Bibliographic references:

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

Kobe Bryant & Phil Jackson | Meditation (April 2024).

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