Mindful Athletics-the new sport of active aging

Can positive mental attitude improve your ability to perform sports as you age? The answer is YES.

You might think that performance athletes who possess superior physical strength and abilities have it ‘all together.’  Certainly they do in many ways. But lately what has come to the forefront of most professional sports is the need for enhanced mental fortitude and a more mindful attitude to continue to excel.  Athletes are under immense pressure to perform which translates into significant mental capacity and concentration to push the body over the top. The stress on the body and mind are unfathomable.

Currently there are massive changes in the coaching world for athletes to help them improve and up their ‘game’. And, these sociological changes have benefits for athletic people of all ages, especially those aging ex-athletes and recreational 50+ weekend-warriors pushing themselves to greater limits.

There are now personal stress reduction techniques both guided and do-it-yourself that help the mind focus and quiet itself from the internal chatter and stressors from the world around us.  With greater knowledge about the brain and neuroplasticity, athletes both professional and recreational are able to find a better balance in their endeavours and pursuits.

Various mindfulness techniques such as meditation helps our brains change and adapt and allow greater mental fitness. Here are a few ways to get started.

  1. Mindful Listening technique: Mindful listening can create an inner stillness in both parties as the speaker may feel free of the listener’s preconceptions and prejudices, and the listener is free of inner chatter whilst learning.
  2. Self-Compassionate Pause technique: This is also a great way to practice mindfulness by bringing awareness to emotions and staying in the moment with them.
  3. 5-Senses technique: Use your 5-senses to bring your awareness to such things as smells or sounds that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant.
  4. 3-minute breathing space technique: This is the perfect technique for those with busy lives and minds.  Simply focus on the breath. The idea is not to block distractions but rather just let them come into your mind and then disappear back out again. Try to just observe them.

Research studies now show that regular meditation can alleviate depression, boost memory and enhance the immune system; all of which help in sports activities. For a greater or deeper experience, guided meditation or regular counselling has also been shown to help manage performance anxiety and stimulate emotional regulation.