You are not what you think. Create mindfulness.
Are you aware of what you are actually thinking – do you practice mindfulness? Every day you have thoughts about who you are and what you’re doing, and then you think it’s who you are. Positivity or negativity can rule your game. Such as, I struck out three times today; therefore I am a terrible hitter. Or, I shot a 93, therefore I am an awful golfer. Much of our thinking is negative. One negative thought leads to another and another, which leads to more errors and mistakes, and continues to feed the cycle about what that means about you.
For example, I made a mistake in the beginning of the second set and kept thinking “how could I have made such a stupid mistake?” I was emotional and could not let go of that negative thinking for the next two sets and then lost the match. It made me wonder why I play tennis. It also made me think that I am a loser of a human being, losing to a person I shouldn’t have lost to.
Much of our emotional experience consists of negative feelings nagging at the brain. These feelings torture us without being intrinsically related to experience. You need to remember that emotions are not actually facts.
Thinking leads to a stress response
All of our negative thinking leads to stress. Stress is unpleasant, even when it is transient. A stressful situation such as persistent worry of not wanting to lose a game can trigger the release of stress hormones that produce physiological changes: your heart pounds, your breathing quickens, your muscles tense, and beads of sweat appear. This combination of reactions to stress is also known as the fight-or-flight response because it evolved as a survival mechanism, enabling people and other mammals to react quickly to life-threatening situations. The sequence of hormonal changes and physiological responses helps you to fight the threat off or flee to safety. Unfortunately, the body can also overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening, such as mistakes, pressure, and losing your spot on the team.
When you regard thinking as a survival tool, it helps to de-emotionalize the process. You can see your thoughts as somewhat generic not as I, me, or mine.
Besides our thinking, there are many examples of how modern life distracts us – computers, video games, cell phones, nonstop email, etc. Perhaps the problem lies not in our cell phones but in ourselves. After all, we’re the ones constantly making choices about what to pay attention to and what to ignore. The trouble is, most of us make these choices semiconsciously. We don’t attempt to control our attention, mainly because we don’t know how, or haven’t made the conscious effort. Buddhists maintain that the capacity to be present can be developed through a consistent practice of meditation: the mind is by nature unstable and inherently distractible, and meditation is one way of stabilizing it.
Mindfulness and neuroplasticity
Fortunately, research in the past few years has come to the realization that the adult brain has impressive powers of neuroplasticity: the ability to change its structure and function in response to your experience. The strategy that starts you on this path is mindfulness.
One definition of mindfulness (Google) states that it is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. The “Dr. Michelle” definition of mindfulness is the:
- ability to be aware of what’s happening as it’s happening
- capacity to move, act and respond as necessary
- skill to realize when you’ve lost focus and gently guide it back
- control of being mindful and present. It’s where you have the most control to perform at your peak.
Mindfulness does not always have the best connotations associated with it. It’s almost always associated with meditation and many athletes do not like the word mindfulness or the fact that it’s associated with meditation. Although meditation is one way to develop mindfulness (and there are many different kinds and ways to meditate), there are many other ways to create a mindful space, such as concentration, breathing , awareness, acceptance, letting go, etc . There are numerous ways for athletes to expand their mindfulness on and off the field (court). Those clients who have adopted mindfulness, have seen an increase in their ability to deal with many of the mental and physical barriers that were initially getting in their way.
Be more mindful and control your thinking
If you are in the negativity cycle of thinking, you are not what you think. You think you are but that’s because you are always thinking it. Fortunately, the research of neuroplasticity says you can learn to be more mindful and more present. You can also learn that thoughts are just thoughts. They don’t have to be any more expansive. You don’t have to feed them. You can learn to let them go or change them into something more facilitative. We get distracted by thoughts and emotions because we turn them into something they are not and believe it. You may think you are the worst athlete in the world but where did that thought come from? It was built on fear, negativity, stress, and doubt. You can learn to let go of these things so they don’t lead you to being the worst athlete. You can just as easily learn to think positively and that you are the best athlete versus the worst athlete.