Football (It’s coming home) to mindfulness
Football (It’s coming home) to mindfulness
I was delighted to see pictures of the England football team practising relaxation, mindfulness and yoga techniques as part of their post-match cool-down. It really has made it to the mainstream!
More importantly, it gets the message out there to young people, especially young males that it’s ok to do things that might look at bit hippy or uncool. It helps teach them new ways to manage stress and anxiety rather than suffering in silence. Mindfulness is now being taught in schools and I hope this encourages young people to take up the offer to practice mindfulness meditation within a school setting – it can be so beneficial, especially at exam time.
Furthermore, the England team have been working with a psychologist to develop a positive mind-set which might explain why things feel so different when watching them at the moment. They seem relaxed, calm and controlled. We actually won a penalty shoot out!! I think that’s because they believed they could. One of my favourite quotes is “What we think we become” (Buddha). If you think you are a winner you will be.
So what is mindfulness then?
Put simply, it’s about being aware of what’s happening to you right now. It’s being present in your life (not lost in your head, side-tracked by negative thinking). For example, fully listening to someone when they speak not thinking about what you’ve got to do next. By being fully present to what’s going on you are more in control of things.
How do I do it?
Mindfulness can be practised anywhere. It’s useful to find a quiet place where you can be undisturbed but it can also be done on your commute!
- Choose something to focus your attention on. This might be your breathing (noticing your breath as you breathe in and out), it might be listening to the sounds around you (really good for outside in the garden or park). It could just be something as simple as looking at a tree or river.
- Focus your attention solely on this. Really noticing things about your chosen “anchor” eg your breathing. Bringing a sense of curiosity to this – so noticing if it’s easier breathing in than out, where you feel the breath in your body (shoulders rising, belly expanding, chest rising and falling). You will be noticing the physical sensations of breathing not your thoughts about breathing.
- At this point your mind will start to derail you with thoughts or feelings. This is what minds do and is really helpful in getting you to understand the workings of your mind. You might notice comments such as “I’m bored”, “I could be doing something else!, “I feel stupid”. In mindfulness we just notice these thoughts and allow them to be there before returning to the breath or your chosen focus. It teaches us not to get tangled up in negative thinking which then impacts on our feelings creating stress and anxiety.
- By doing this we also notice how self-critical we are which doesn’t help with positive thinking either. You then have a choice to be a bit kinder to yourself, letting go of the criticisms and looking for the good points instead.
What happens next?
After a while you might notice you feel a little calmer as your breathing slows. By not engaging with your thoughts but just allowing them to be there you are creating space in your mind for other things. Or you are simply letting go of your thoughts which gives your brain a much needed rest.
How will it help me develop a positive mindset?
Mindfulness is all about being present. Paying attention to what is actually happening now (as opposed to what you think is happening or sometimes even recreating scenarios in our heads about things that have happened in the past). Take an example of someone giving a presentation. If this person has previously had a disastrous presentation (where they dried up and couldn’t speak), it might be fair to say that their minds would want to return to this point and remind them of the disaster. These thoughts would then potentially cause a great deal of anxiety triggering more thoughts such as “I’m going to dry up again” “I’ll look stupid”. All because of a past memory. If by using mindfulness, the person allows the thought to just be there and focusses on something in the present, the anxiety should decline. They are not in the past they are here now. This is a new presentation and there is no evidence to say it will be like the last. We can’t change the past but we can influence this moment
So tonight when England play Croatia and the game goes to extra time and penalties (we know it’s coming), Kane will step up, perform his penalty ritual, putting the ball on the spot and focussing all of his attention on this. He will allow any thoughts of Italia 90 to just be there. He will remind himself, it is July 11th 2018, not 4th July 1990. He is Harry Kane, not Stuart Pearce . He will step up and………