As I continue to navigate through my line of work and teaching Elite Athletes about Mindfulness, Meditation and Yoga, I do my best to take the time to explain WHY these practices are so important.
My response usually starts with a quote:
I found this quote about 2 months after being released from inpatient psychiatric care. At that point, I had spent almost a full year living panic attack to panic attack. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t leave my house most days. I was at a complete loss for how I was supposed to continue to live my life. When I eventually landed in inpatient care I felt like I had truly hit my rock bottom. I weathered that storm and when I made it out alive I made a promise to myself:
I would never let myself go back to that place mentally, physically or emotionally.
So I got to work.
I started meditating because I assumed it would be good for me. I ordered close to 10 books on Mindfulness and Meditation from Amazon. I hit my yoga mat every single day. I dove head first in to my own recovery.
But I don’t think it was until I stumbled upon this specific quote that I really understood what I was actually doing for myself and more importantly for my brain. I didn’t quite grasp the power behind this practice.
For most of us we live our lives on the constant go.
As Meditation teacher George Mumford says “We live in a recurring series of stimulus and response.” Things happen, events take place, thoughts occur in our minds, we interact with the people around us and we respond. What we don’t realize is that most of the time our response is a reaction. Our response takes place before we even realize what we’re doing.
Science shows that roughly 40-50% of what we do every day is habit. We’re on autopilot. Think about your day to day and ask yourself… “How often am I truly paying attention and present in what I am doing?”
What science also shows is that thoughts often occur in patterns. Anyone have a belief or thought about themselves that tends to play on repeat?
Everyone should be raising their hand. That is the nature of the human brain.
We are living in a time right now where we are more distracted and disconnected than ever. Stress and anxiety are at an all time HIGH in our country. These things have a detrimental affect on our lives.
Not to mention an Elite Athlete that has the sole job of performing, competing and ultimately, winning.
This simple quote about the power of finding the space, describes the profound impact of WHY Mindfulness is so key.
Mindfulness is about opening our eyes to the space between stimulus and response. When we see the space and push pause, we give ourselves these moments of greater insight and clarity. The insight and clarity allow us to see that WE HAVE CHOICE. Our CHOICE is in how we respond to the things that happen in our life. This is the power Frankl mentions. This is the power of Mindfulness.
But I’ll take this a step further and go beyond just the words of a quote. Every day we gain more and more scientific research that SHOWS the practices physiologically change the brain.
Science is proving that Meditation and Mindfulness practices help re-wire neural pathways in the brain. Studies looking at meditators have been able to prove structural changes in brain areas that promote awareness, concentration and emotional regulation.
Mindfulness is improving HOW your brain functions.
To me…. Especially for an Elite Athlete or any Coach that is a big WHY.
Lets look at it this way:
When you have an area in your game that needs work, what do you do? You use drills or exercises to train that area.
When you have an area of your game that is perfectly fine - but you simply want to continue to get better and be the best you can be, what do you do? You use drills or exercise to train that area.
You are not playing your sport.. Without your brain. Mindfulness helps you improve the functioning of your mind.
In my opinion you could find one hundred reasons of WHY these practices are beneficial. I could spend hours speaking about how the practices of Mindfulness and Meditation have completely transformed my life.
For the Elite Athlete - I think it’s a no brainer.
The WHY is that you can change your Brain so that it works for you and not against you.
The WHY is that you can train yourself to find more space and RESPOND not react.
The WHY is that you can be a more proactive agent in HOW you live your life and HOW you perform.
Want to get started with Mindfulness and finding the space? Start here:
This is what I call “Notice What You Notice.” Remember, roughly 40-50you’re your every day you are on autopilot. This is the simple act of stepping OUT of autopilot. Use your five senses to take in everything about your experiences!
Carve out time in your day to push the Pause button on life. Give yourself permission to slow down, put your phone aside and breathe. When we make time in our day to slow down we are creating the “space” that we speak about with Mindfulness. When we do this we are acknowledging to our own brain that this is important.
Have you ever gone through the motions in your warm up or a specific drill? That is our brain “tuning out.” Get intentional and mindful with your movement. Tap in to how the body and breath feel as you move in your sport. This can be really difficult even for my pro athletes, which is why I am a BIG fan of yoga for this!
Science shows that the fastest way to make changes in the structure of your brain and to enhance your own “Mindfulness Muscle” is to Meditate. This can seem like a really daunting thing if you are new to it. Know that there are MANY ways. You do NOT have to go sit in a dark room with your eyes closed and avoid moving for hours. My biggest teaching points for Meditation are be COMFORTABLE and keep it simple. Try starting with 1-2 minutes at a time and build from there.
For more information find Emily Perrin at https://www.perrinwellnessperformance.com
Emily Perrin is a Mindfulness and Performance coach located in the Raleigh – Durham area. She is the Founder and CEO of Perrin Wellness and Performance and works with elite athletes through Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga and Breath Work. She is a trained and certified Mindfulness Meditation teacher, 200 hour Registered Yoga Instructor and pursuing her Masters in Clinical Social Work at the University of Denver. Most of work is done at Duke University and with various collegiate and professional organizations and athletes. She played DI soccer at the University of Virginia and coached at the DI level at the University of Pennsylvania.