Motivational Monday: How Practicing Mindfulness Can Benefit Swimmers


Motivational Monday: How Practicing Mindfulness Can Benefit Swimmers

In today’s society, more and more athletes are willing to speak out against the stigma surrounding their mental health. From gymnast Simone Biles to swimmer Caeleb Dressel, the topic is becoming more widely spoken about. In a sport as time-consuming (and emotionally taxing) as swimming, taking care of your mental health is just as important as staying physically healthy. One thing swimmers can do to prioritize themselves is practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness? The dictionary definition is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” Mindfulness allows someone to truly live in the moment by being aware of what they are sensing and feeling at the time. People have been practicing mindfulness for hundreds of years, but it has become increasingly popular over the past decade. In fact, according to PyschCentral, “in 2018 the CDC reported that meditation was the fastest growing health trend in the United States”.

Mindfulness can be an extremely useful practice for swimmers. As a broad overview, it can reduce anxiety and increase focus. When we are anxious, our muscles tend to tighten and we begin to lose focus on the present moment. Our minds instantly jump to the “what ifs” of the situation we are in, rather than examining what is actually happening around us. Practicing mindfulness can help us dial in on the present and avoid this anxiety (and the effects that come along with it).

How can swimmers incorporate mindfulness into their daily routines? There are various different methods of doing so. The first is simply to pay attention to your senses. When standing behind the blocks, it is easy to get caught up in the moment. People are screaming, whistles are blowing, and a swimmer in the heat in front of you just swam a stellar time. When we get wrapped up in all that is going on around us, we can begin to lose focus on the race ahead of us. In order to bring ourselves back down, we can be hyper-attentive to our senses. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Notice how your shoulders rise and fall with each breath, and listen to the air flowing in and out of your body. Paying attention to your senses and breathing can help relax us in the most stressful of moments, and it can be done anywhere.

If you have more time, a quiet place, and some alone time, then the body scan method of meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness. To begin, lay down on your back with your arms at your sides. Close your eyes and focus your attention on different parts of your body, one at a time. Notice any emotions or feelings (physical or mental) that come with each body part. The body scan method can help us be more aware of our physical state, and be more in touch with our own self.

In conclusion, mindfulness is an effective technique when it comes to supporting swimmers’ mental health. Next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, give it a try!

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