5 Benefits of Mindfulness for Athletes

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that's become very popular in recent years. Its application in the sports context seems to improve athletes' performance and mental well-being.
5 Benefits of Mindfulness for Athletes

Last update: 08 February, 2021

In recent years, the benefits of mindfulness have been studied in a multitude of contexts. Despite being a new practice, it’s been gaining popularity very quickly, to the point that companies, schools, and hospitals are recommending it to workers.

Many people have an idea of what it is, but mindfulness is often confused with meditation. Although you could say that mindfulness is a way of meditating, the latter encompasses numerous techniques that go beyond the purpose of mindfulness.

The benefits of mindfulness for athletes

In particular, mindfulness has drawn the attention of sports psychologists as a tool to ensure optimal performance. Intervention programs show that it positively influences attention, self-confidence, and helps with anxiety. Here are the benefits of mindfulness in the athletic field.

1. Contributes to the recovery process after an injury

Injuries aren’t only physically painful but also psychologically impairing for any athlete because the rehabilitation process not only focuses on getting back to training but also on preventing future injuries.

According to a study published in the Journal of Sport Psychologymindfulness could be effective in speeding up the recovery process. This is because the technique positively influences processes directly involved in injuries, such as stress or pain control. Consequently, rehabilitation takes less time and becomes easier for the athlete.

Mindfulness and breathing techniques.

2. Mindfulness relieves anxiety before a competition

It’s completely normal to feel nervous before an important competition. However, not knowing how to manage anxiety can be detrimental to an athlete’s performance.

One of the goals of mindfulness is to direct your attention to your own body and mind and set yourself free from pressure. In fact, it’s helpful to reduce the impact that a stressful situation can have by reducing anxiety at key moments.

Often, martial arts athletes go through interventions that apply mindfulness, given the positive results it provides, such as reducing pre-competition anxiety, and increasing self-confidence.

3. Helps manage frustration

All sports require athletes to manage frustration. Those who aren’t able to cope with negative situations are at a higher risk of developing burnout syndrome, which leads them to quit the sport.

One of the many benefits of mindfulness is that it’s very helpful in regulating negative emotions. This method encourages athletes not to fight negative thoughts, but to accept them and slowly let them go instead.

Being kind to yourself can work wonders on your mood. On the contrary, being hostile to your own thoughts and struggling to get rid of them only leads to increased discomfort and frustration.

4. Mindfulness boosts intrinsic motivation

A very interesting research line is the one that studies how mindfulness influences the flow state. That is, whether athletes who practice this technique are able to reach that state more easily.

The flow state is the highest level of internal motivation that a person can have. When an individual is in “the zone”, they’re so immersed in the activity they’re doing, that they lose track of time and all their attention is directed towards the task.

According to a bibliographic review conducted by professionals from the University of Almería, mindfulness-based intervention programs are effective in making it more likely that athletes get into a flow state.

5. Optimize attention resources

During sports, many stimuli can get the athlete’s attention. However, not all stimuli are relevant. In fact, some can be distracting and impair performance.

A male athlete using mindfulness for concentration.

One of the main benefits of mindfulness is that it improves concentration. By practicing it continuously, individuals learn to ignore anything that interferes with the execution of a task. In addition, mindfulness has positive effects on the quality and length of attention span. 

Using mindfulness to improve performance

The great advantage of mindfulness is that it has many benefits at a low cost. In other words, it has no side effects, it’s easy to learn, and it can be put into practice almost at any time or place.

To reach their highest potential, an athlete has to work on both body and mind. In fact, it’s essential to focus on both since they affect each other. Therefore, working the mind through mindfulness will promote progress during workouts.

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  • Del Águila, J., Mañas, I., Franco, C., Gil, C., y Gil, M. D. (2014). Programas basados en mindfulness para atletas. Actividad física y deporte adaptado, 2, 159-167.
  • Solé, S., Carrança, B., Serpa, S., y Palmi, J. (2014). Aplicaciones del mindfulness (conciencia plena) en lesión deportiva. Revista de psicología del deporte, 23(2), 501-508.
  • Torrealva, D. T., y Bossio, M. R. (2019). Programa basado en” mindfulness” para la reducción de la ansiedad precompetitiva en deportistas de artes marciales. Retos: nuevas tendencias en educación física, deporte y recreación, (36), 418-426.