What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is observing your environment and your thoughts, without judgement or criticism. It is being in present moment and being aware of what it happening around you and within you.
Benefits of mindfulness in a high performance environment include:
- Promote flow states for optimal performance
- Minimise self-consciousness
- Change mood states
- Reduce anxiety
- Manage pain
- Manage performance pressure
- Manage work-life balance
Be Here, Now.
A common misconception of mindfulness is that it is ‘just meditation’. Mindfulness is about performing and living in the being in the present moment. Focusing on the now and eliminating distractions, or even better, performing optimally in spite of those distractions. In a podcast with Sport Psychologist Dan Abrahams, Alan Stein describes three components of ‘playing present’ that produces elite performances
Focus on the next play
You cannot control what has happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future. Concentrating on the immediate task is all you can do.
Focus on what you can control
You can control attitude toward the performance and the amount of effort exerted. Leave behind factors out of your control
Focus on the process
Life is built brick by brick. Do not focus on the outcome of your performance but rather the process and the execution of skill
Acceptance-Based Behavioural Therapy (ABT)
ABT is a form of mindfulness practice which, focuses on welcoming thoughts and emotions, without trying to change them. As we experience thoughts and emotions, we attach language to them and associate them with each other.
For example, you experience an adverse event at work, where your colleague has confronted you and expressed frustration toward you. Your response to this event will involve particular language e.g. annoying or irritating. Mindfulness helps you to create a different relationship with thoughts, feelings and events. To accept them, avoid dwelling and subsequently, enhance your behaviour in response to it in a more productive and favourable manner.
Mindfulness-Acceptance Commitment (MAC) Approach
The MAC approach was developed to enhance performance and well-being through a combination of mindfulness exercises and acceptance methods. MAC offers an alternative approach to performance enhancement. Where traditional psychological training focuses on controlling thoughts and emotions, MAC shifts the emphasis to non-judgemental awareness and acceptance of thoughts and feelings.
To do this there are 3 components in involved:
Detach cognitions from feelings and label your thought process
E.g. “I am having the thought that I cannot rely on my colleague anymore” instead of “I can’t rely on my colleague anymore.
Self Identify Context
Avoid self description of your perceived role
E.g. Do not label yourself as an athlete, an employee or a student
Understand and emphasise your personal values
E.g. you value working effectively as a team. Your commitment to this value encourages you to discuss your colleagues issue in a polite manner and resolve the problem (action)
How does mindfulness influence psychological skills?
The practice of mindfulness encapsulates multiple components which, can advance the development of psychological skills.
Practicing mindfulness can help to identify the differences between personal values and goals. This can increase focus on your ‘why’ and develop motivation
Exposing yourself to unpleasant experiences, thoughts and scenarios and becoming comfortable with them. Mindfulness can help to confront these situations instead of avoiding them
The idea that happiness our happiness is linked to achieving positive outcomes means that we are often unhappy if unsuccessful. Mindfulness teaches you to be aware of the process and detach satisfaction from outcomes
What is the difference between mindfulness and relaxation?
|Focus on awareness of muscle tension|
Practice of being non-judgemental
Increase of self-awareness
|Focus on decreasing muscle tension|
Does not require awareness of present moment
Decrease physiological stress
Practicing mindfulness can help to enhance the following psychological skills:
References, Resources and Reading
Birrer, D., Röthlin, P., & Morgan, G. (2012). Mindfulness to enhance athletic performance: Theoretical considerations and possible impact mechanisms. Mindfulness, 3(3), 235- 246.
Gardner, F. L. (2016). Scientific advancements of mindfulness-and acceptance-based models in sport psychology: A decade in time, a seismic shift in philosophy and practice.
Gardner, F. L., & Moore, Z. E. (2017). Mindfulness-based and acceptance-based interventions in sport and performance contexts. Current opinion in psychology, 16, 180-184.
Gustafsson, H., Skoog, T., Davis, P., Kenttä, G., & Haberl, P. (2015). Mindfulness and its relationship with perceived stress, affect, and burnout in elite junior athletes. Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 9(3), 263-281.
Ivarsson, A., Johnson, U., Andersen, M. B., Fallby, J., & Altemyr, M. (2015). It pays to pay attention: A mindfulness-based program for injury prevention with soccer players. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, 27(3), 319-334.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are. New York: Hyperion.