How's Mindfulness Help When You're Feeling Rough?
When you begin using mindfulness in your mental training, you’re practicing in a quiet place with few outside distractions and feel relatively good. When a distracting thought or feeling comes to your attention, it’s fairly easy to let it go and refocus. After you’re done with a mindfulness exercise, you probably feel relaxed and clear-headed. Eventually, you’ll transition into practicing mindfulness when you ‘don’t feel so great,’ so you can continue playing like yourself despite how you feel.
Be warned! This is where many athletes fall off in mindfulness and mental skills practice, because it requires working on things that make you uncomfortable. Did you just think about tuning out and clicking to something else? It’s a natural, normal thing to want to avoid uncomfortable situations - even thinking about them - but sometimes what you really want can only happen while you’re uncomfortable.
Turning away from emotions or difficult experiences keeps you from getting used to them and playing like yourself, while you feel rough. Mindfulness challenges you to turn toward those things, so you accept that they might come around in pursuit of what you want. If you accept them as ‘okay to feel’ while you do other things, you effectively disentangle yourself from the feeling - you don’t tangle your focus, thoughts, or efforts up in trying to block out or get rid of it (Gardner & Moore, 2007; Germer, Siegel, & Fulton, 2007). You’re then free to play or train in the way that you need to, because you’re skilled enough to accept feeling or thinking difficult things occasionally while you focus on playing your best game.
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