How meditation improves sports performance
Meditation has grown in popularity over recent years, especially in the area of sports. Many well known athletes and teams have used meditation to help them with their athletic performance. Anyone who has experienced meditation and done it on a regular basis, can feel the benefits. Meditation is known to help you stay calm, focused, centered and present during high pressured situations. The athletes I work with who implement meditation on a regular basis notice the difference, they feel relaxed, and have a better ability to focus and stay calm under pressure. So what exactly is going on in the brain to cause the benefits? Meditation is now being thoroughly researched and scientists are finding that meditation does not only reduce stress but also changes the brain. Think about that for a moment. Meditation changes your brain.
I have often told my clients that meditating on a regular basis helps amplify the benefits, and now science is showing that to be correct, because it actually changes your brain in very beneficial ways. An article in the Washington Post, speaks to how meditation changes the brain through interviewing one of the first scientists to take the anecdotal benefits of meditation and test them in brain scans. Here is what she found:
- Increased gray matter in the insula and sensory areas of the brain, the auditory and sensory cortex. Makes sense given when you meditate you focus on being present, your breath, your surroundings, and shutting down cognition.
- Increased gray matter in the frontal cortex, which is in charge of working memory and executive decision making. This area of the brain gets smaller as we get older. It is harder to remember things and figure things out. Studies show that regular meditators who are say 50 years old, have the same gray matter in their frontal cortex as 25 year olds.
- Five regions of the brain changed in volume for those who meditated after 8 weeks:
- Area that is involved with mind wandering and self relevance increased in gray matter helping lessen mind wandering.
- Area responsible for learning, cognition, memory and emotional regulation increased in gray matter.
- Area for compassion and empathy increased in gray matter
- The area where neurotransmitters are produced increased in gray matter
- Area responsible for our fight or flight, which is important for fear, and anxiety got smaller.
In essence people who meditated regularly for 8 weeks became more compassionate, had better memory, less wandering minds, and less fear and anxiety. This can help anyone, but if you think of what is required in athletics, being able to remain focused, have better memory and cognition will help increase your performance, all the rest will help you as a person, which will also increase your performance and life. Meditation is not something just for hippies or monks, but is a well tested and proven way to make you a better athlete.