Mindfulness in Sports - how Does it Affect Athletes?

Sports Mindfulness refers to a series of techniques that can greatly benefit those who practice sports.
Mindfulness in Sports - how Does it Affect Athletes?
Gema Sánchez Cuevas

Written and verified by the psychologist Gema Sánchez Cuevas.

Last update: 31 January, 2024

Pelé, who is one of the most famous football players in history, is clear on one thing. For him “everything is about practice”. It would make sense to think that this applies to mindfulness in sports as well. The more you practice, the better you will be. Does it really work like this?

According to the sports coach and psychologist Jonathan García-Allen, an important number of professional athletes have opted to apply mindfulness in sports. They have made this choice above the application of cognitive behavioral therapy, which is so popular these days. What is this all about?

What is mindfulness and how is it applied to sports?

Mindfulness is a technique based on focusing all of your attention on what you’re doing in the present moment, without judgments and with as few filters as possible. The objective is to teach your mind methods so that it can manage thoughts, emotions, reactions, and attitudes in the different situations that may come up. This way, mindfulness seeks the improvement of awareness through positive attitudes, self-knowledge, and freedom.

It seems evident that this method is ideal when applied to sports. After all, a training session, match, or confrontation, all require full concentration to achieve optimal performance.

A girl jogging while listening to music.

Mindfulness leads you to what is known as the “Flow State”. Have you ever had the feeling you were so focused on an activity that you seemed to be floating while you were doing it? Well, that is exactly what athletes aim for during the most important moments of their competitions. And it can be achieved through this technique.

“If you don’t have confidence, you will always find a way not to win.”
-Carl Lewis-

How does mindfulness in sports affect people?

From what we have seen so far, mindfulness is effective for all kinds of profiles. It’s logical to think that athletes are not exempt from the advantages and benefits of this technique. How do you think mindfulness influences them?

  • Mindfulness is an effective technique to raise an athlete’s level of motivation. Obviously, this will be vital to obtain optimal performance.
  • It’s also vital for each individual’s level of activation. The more focused and active an athlete is, the more effective he’ll be in his task.
  • This technique helps activate optimal stress levels. In this type of situation, stress shouldn’t be considered something negative. It is clear that during a competition it’s necessary. And that’s where mindfulness comes in. It forces stress to reach optimal levels which increase an athlete’s competence.
  • It should be noted that this technique manages to increase an individual’s level of self-esteem and confidence. Logically, an athlete who fully trusts in his abilities is essential for effective competition.
  • In addition, mindfulness is very effective when it comes to interpreting successes and failures. An athlete may end their career when success dies and they experience constant failure. But with a sensible and balanced view of things, their judgment will reach a point of coherent common sense.
  • This also works as an effective tool to unite a team of athletes. Mindfulness can create an optimal collective environment which benefits the interpersonal relationships within a group of people.

Mindfulness in sports as a manager of emotions

As you can see, well-applied mindfulness can be a very effective technique in sports. It’ll make the confidence of the athletes emerge in order to reach an optimum performance level. This way, people accept their emotions and thoughts and manage them naturally, without the need to modify or eliminate them.

This technique seeks to achieve self-knowledge and a state of emotional regulation which allows effective management, not elimination. This brings us to “the Flow State”, the moment when everything flows and seems to be in perfect harmony. A state in which the activities you perform don’t seem to take any effort at all.

A girl is stretching before going for a run.

Therefore, reaching a state of effective acceptance in the present moment is key. People let themselves be carried away and join the present moment, instead of overthinking and trying to control everything. This behavior increases concentration, distances negative thoughts, and grants greater sports performance.

And that’s how we know that mindfulness in sports can be a very useful and effective technique in order to increase the performance of athletes. In a state of emotional balance in which everything flows effortlessly, bringing the best out of yourself will not only be a challenge but a state which you may also enjoy.

“My strength is that I am more balanced and calmer than most other riders.”
-Miguel Indurain-

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.