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A mindful performer: Attitudes

I was reading the workbook by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein, “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook” and Jon Kabat-Zinn spoke about 8 attitudes (borrowed from Buddhist teachings, applied to mindfulness) about being more mindful in your living. Reading about them, I realised all this is completely applicable to us as performers, athletes and employees, while doing our job.

Attitudes

So what are these attitudes?

1- Beginner’s mind. Looking at things as new and fresh. As athletes, to learn and un-learn and re-learn a technique is difficult. When you look at practice, analyse and try to apply the new decision to your practice it gets difficult because of pre-conceived notions about you performing not-accurately due to your previous technique. That holds you back. Having a beginner’s mind will help you with this.

2-  Non-judgment. This is the attitude of not labelling any thought, feeling, experience, situation, people as good, bad, ugly, pathetic, worst or any other label. This attitude means, simply taking a note of what are the sensation, thoughts, feelings of that moment, and not react according to that.

3- Acknowledgment. Acceptance and awareness of the situation or person as they are, and acknowledging that.

4- Non-striving. Acceptance of the situation, and not running away from the person, situation by trying very hard to change it. this means just being where you are and accepting it first to start working towards the change you want.

5- Equanimity. If there is a change, unexpected situation, your attitude of dealing with thoughts and emotions with calmness and composure.

6- Letting be. This attitude means, acceptance of the present as it is, just allowing it to be how it is.

7- Self-reliance. The attitude of awareness where is you depend only on yourself for what is right, the truth, and not blame anyone.

8- Self-compassion. The attitude to love, accept yourself, without any judgements, which also helps you work towards your own development. After performing poorly in one match, self hatred is obvious. But your ability to be self-compassionate will allow you to convert the negative thoughts towards performance based, self-developing actions.

How can I build these attitudes?

All these attitudes look very difficult to practice. So, are we going to let them go? No.

As athletes, how can you be more mindful when it comes to your performance? How can you follow these 8 attitudes?

  1. Maintain a bullet journal which helps you have a check on your daily attitude journal. It does not only mean on field, while practicing. But also means how you behave with others because of your attitude. Or towards your own self.
  2. Go to your practice and match with a goal, an intention. Dont be too harsh on the outcome, help yourself be in the present to develop your performance so that it positively impacts the outcome of the match.
  3. Help yourself have a non-judgemental attitude while playing a match, while practicing and even when you are not doing well in either of the two.

 

Mindful Living: Be Mindful, Live Mindfully

Ria came home from work tired and she wanted to watch a movie to wind-down. She got a bowl full of chips and sat down in front of the television. As she was watching the movie, she completed the bowl full of chips and also went for more. She also gulped down a can of cola at the same time. After the movie got over, she realized she does not have any space in her stomach for dinner. She skipped a healthy dinner that was freshly prepared and a tired Ria went off to sleep.

Who is responsible for this behavior here?

It is Ria’s mind!

She has not trained her mind to know what is unhealthy for her body and what is healthy, even though she regularly goes to the gym in the morning. Why is this unhealthy? She ate the chips mindlessly, without paying attention to how much and what she is eating.

In our busy lives, we end up doing many such things without paying mindful attention to the actions. As a result of this, we end up doing many activities in a wrong way or maybe in excess. Does this affect your health in an adverse way? Yes! So, can our mind help us to be healthier? Definitely yes! Being mindful in everything we do is one way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But what is mindfulness?

“Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn

Mindfulness as a concept has grown in the past decade. Though many are aware of this concept, not many apply it to their lives. Many techniques and practices can cultivate mindfulness in our daily lives. The benefits of mindfulness include:

1. Reduced stress

2. Growth in attention

3. Boost in working memory

4. Emotional control

5. Reduction in rumination.

There are areas in our lives where we can use mindfulness to develop a healthier and effective living. Let us see how does this way of looking at life, helps you maintain a healthy lifestyle:

1. Be mindful while working out: While exercising, don’t just lift weights till the end of the count your instructor gives you, be involved in every breath you inhale and exhale and every pain you feel while your muscle flexes. Mindfulness tells you to experience every bodily sensation to live in the moment. Even while running on the treadmill or while using an exercise cycle, allow your mind to focus and be aware of the impact running has on your breath and on your body. Don’t let your mind think about the song playing on the TV or on your iPod. If you think about what work has to be done after the workout, consciously allow your mind to pay attention to your breath, to get your attention to the present.

2. Become a mindful eater: Have you ever had a pastry right after a proper lunch, just because ‘it is tempting and looks delicious’? After a moment, have your regretted having a whole pastry? This is because at that point, you were not being mindful of your own stomach. You became mindless and ate the whole pastry just because it looked good, not because you are hungry. The temptations, you should remember, are only to satisfy your tongue and not your stomach. Being mindful does not mean avoiding the pastry, it just means eating how much your body requires.

3. Sleep mindfully: Checking your phone just because you have nothing to do before going to sleep? Does this affect your sleep? It does indeed! It is obvious you see something you don’t like on Facebook before sleeping and it helps you not fall asleep. We should prepare going to sleep like you want to rest. Relax your legs, hands and all the muscles of your body and prepare your body and mind to relax. Don’t just make sleeping a daily ritual. In fact, make resting a ritual that will allow you to sleep mindfully.

4. When at work, be at work; when at home…. Sending emails when you reach home? And thinking about work even while having the evening walk with your spouse? That does not help being attentive and could create unhealthy relationships because you may not be attentive to what your spouse just said. Likewise, being productive at work without the interference of an unrelated phone call is equally important. Being mindful increases productivity at workplace and also lets you keep work at workplace and home issues at home.

5. Practice mindfulness meditation : Practicing mindfulness based meditation helps you become mindful in your daily chores as well as work. It means taking out 10 minutes of your daily life to sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing. Mindfulness meditation doesn’t mean removing thoughts from your mind. In fact, which meditating it means allowing your thoughts to come and go without passing any judgments on it and redirecting your focus on your breathing.Tired of seeing your muffin top-Don't worry because you can have.png

HPE Series: 5 Blog series on High Performance Environment and Mindfulness

As a performance psychologist interested in Mindfulness, I have been reading a lot on developing a mindful HPE.

This May 2017 I will be talking about mindfulness in a HPE through all social media platforms, addressing mindfulness in different HPEs such as:

  1. Premier League Teams: Case Study IPL
  2. Corporate Sales Teams
  3. Law Firms
  4. Olympic Teams

We will take 8 points to see how can we improve HPEs, through mindfulness:

(1) the critical turning point (Critical Moments),

(2) flexibility and evolution (change),

(3) dual management,

(4) better people make better teams,

(5) responsibility,

(6) leadership,

(7) expectation of excellence

(8) team cohesion.

Starting this week, lets dwell into HPE, watch this space to know more about it 🙂 Mindful performance

Being Mindful in a High Performance Environment

When we talk about a High -Performance Environment (HPE), we talk about teams that build products or work towards common goals in a less time frame. They endure pressure, issues that involve communication and collaboration and problems that create stress- within an individual and also within the team. Here, success is inevitable but so is pressure.

What is HPE?

As team-members of this HPE, you have to be motivated- always. You need to be motivated to deliver work on time. You always have to keep the engine of the organisation or of the team on. That is why, the environment also becomes an entity by itself and working on keeping that engine on, at the same speed, giving the same mileage becomes a part of the challenges organisations and HPE teams face. When I deal with some teams or individual players who play in such conditions, there is no stoppage. That is also when a hurdle like an injury, means ‘this individual is out of the team because we have to have a new one’. Similarly, in an organisation, if an employee fails to deliver, thats when he is given a warning and eventually thrown out of the project. This is what employees and players live on- hot coals. And as a performance psychologist, my job is to strike a good balance between what an organisation should demand to meet good performance standards, and what and employee or a player should deliver to meet those performance standards, without getting stressed.

what-makes-a-great-high-performance-environment
Courtesy: 

http://www.scienceforsport.com/what-makes-a-great-high-performance-environment/

Mindfulness and HPE

So, in order to have this good balance, we have to work on various demands of the organisation and make it positive and productive. Now according to Graham Jones at Lane4 Performance, we have 4 components that can build or break this HPE.

  1. The Leadership
  2. Different Performance Enablers
  3. People of the organisation
  4. Focus

The tool that I am going to write about, to build this HPE is through Mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a buzz word in organisations these days, especially in the west (ironically!). How can mindfulness help build your HPE?

  1. Mindful Leadership: First of all being a mindful leader means, being well aware of yourself, being well aware of the people who work for you or who you work with, and being well aware of the organisational goals and values. There is what enables the beginning of a mindful leadership.
  2. Enabling Performance through Mindfulness: Now leaders also have work to enable this HPE. How could mindfulness enhance this process?
    1. Communication with the people is more crisp, compassionate and aware.
    2. The programs or tools used for performance appraisals are all-way not hierarchical or power-centric.
    3. When the incentives given to the employees or the team members are more than money or bonuses- in kind or by building stronger relationships especially with the managers at the higher hierarchy.
  3. Giving priority to wellbeing through mindfulness: Even though for most of the organisations, the priority or the focus is achievement of goals, the well being of the environment gets the least focus. The organisation should attend equally to develop the well being, be more aware of the needs of the team members and try the best to help them satisfy it. This creates a health high-performing environment.

A mindful HPE means:

  1. A self-aware leader
  2. A leader who knows his team well
  3. A leader who develops the environment- positively and productively.
  4. A team who is reinforced with the idea of being in the present helps improve performance
  5. A team who works of the value of compassion, along with competition. Compassion does not mean no competition, it means healthy competition.
  6. A team who works more on task-based values and not emotion-based values. E.g., Work over attitude/ego.
mindfulness-1
courtesy:

http://notebaert-consulting.com/mindfulness/

 

 

Mindfulness and Exercise

The much buzzed word in the world of psychology is mindfulness.

But I am a firm believer of: unless and until you practice mindfulness, you can never teach anyone the same. So, as a psychologist how can I apply mindfulness. Hmm..

Currently, I have started working out at home, leaving the comforts of a gym, I have adapted to an environment like home or nature (oh, the drama in expressing this!) Apparently, it is difficult. No trainers, no people to motivate you- just your voice and also my Nike Training App.

Why does being mindful while working out help? Mindful workout helps you to

  1. Focus on what you are doing, and not how much: Many people focus on ‘ Oh you have not increased your weights while doing squats’ ‘Same amount of repetitions since last week!! How will it work?!’ Those thoughts linger on your mind and you end up doing more than what your body can. Mindfulness means, focus on what you are doing, enjoy the repetitions and of course aim for more the next time. But, for now- just do it!
  2. Understand and absorb the environment: When we go running, we pay a lot of attention on the music from our iPods or even the kms/miles that are clocked on the app, so that you can upload it on your networking site. This does make it tiring and monotonous. What we fail to absorb is the environment, the nature around the concrete road or the beautiful forest trail that you’re running on. Being mindful means running or working out in the environment that is helping you to do so. So be it working out in your bedroom on the yoga mat or running on the busy road, try to smell, see and feel every sense.
  3. Feel your body and away from injuries: Along with the environment, you should also be mindful of your body. Where the pain is, where the stretch is, the difference between a sore muscle and a muscle pain which can lead to injury.
  4. Be aware of your posture: Being mindful about your body includes understanding how good your posture is. After years of training at the gym sometimes even I feel I do not squat properly. But reminding myself to see if my knees go beyond my toes while squatting is the only way I can self-learn. Plus, a big mirror helps. Another thing what helps is a door frame- to hold and also to see whether you are going beyond the frame/ leg or not!
  5. Breathe: The last and the most important aspect of any form of exercise and also mental stability is breathing. You should know when to inhale and when to exhale, and it is not rocket science to know it. But, you should also know when to stop and take a mindful minute- by focusing on your breathing. While doing body weight circuits, I always take a minute doing abdominal breathing in between two circuits.

Oh and do not forget to stretch after a workout 🙂 introduction-to-mindfulnessPicture Courtesy: http://fieldviewfestival.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/introduction-to-mindfulness.jpg

 

Everyday Mindfulness: Cooking!

So, many of my friends find peeling, cutting and chopping vegetables an everyday hassle. Do you think cooking, chopping and washing could be very therapeutic? Try peeling, chopping or cutting vegetables, in the same speed, but with more attention to the way you peel, chop or cut it? Lets go into some details…

  1. Selective attention: Paying attention to your selective stimuli but ignoring the rest is the most simple definition of selective attention. So you do know you have thoughts around ‘how boring house work is!’, or ‘why isn’t your husband helping you chop vegetables’ or even ‘why do I have to chop vegetables?’but choosing to ignore it to do a daily chore like chopping vegetables isn’t very tempting. But it should be definitely given preference as thinking about all those things is not going to give you a better state of mind is it?
  2. Enjoying the process: So what if it is a daily chore, it is helping feed your family. The process of cooking is an enjoyable one only when it is seen as one. When it is seen as a daily source of stress, then it is a daily source of stress. Do you remember times when you have tried a new dish, with complete attention to the recipe, the smells and even the quantity- did it make a difference in the way you saw the end result? Or it felt the same when you make your daily count of rotis and pulses? What is the difference then- its more about paying mindful attention to the process of cooking. Cleaning, cutting, peeling and chopping mindfully is a way of telling your mind and body what you are doing in the moment is good and it is helping your mind pay attention to details, helping you develop your concentration.
  3. Immerse yourself: Enjoy the colours, the fragrances and even the flavours. Try to identify the spices and the flavours as you cook. When your mind drifts to something unpleasant or some irrelevant thought, let the delicious fragrance bring you back to your mindful cooking.

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When I was peeling garlic last night, I noticed I was so into it that I actually did not find the process of peeling tiny garlic pieces and chopping a tedious one! That did give me an idea of sharing some information of mindfulness practice in daily life, especially while cooking. Ive always seen a portrayal of a hassled housewife in regular hindi soaps, which gives an impression that being a housewife or cooking after returning from work is a very painful thing to do. But, a five minute breather (rather mindful meditation exercise) just before cooking will do no harm, in fact it will help get down the stress levels for a working woman or even for a housewife. It will also make sure you don’t cut your fingers.

Our mind is full of thoughts- positive and negative. These thoughts need acknowledgment and action, but at the right time. So just pay attention to this very restless mind of ours, and after many days of your tryst with mindful cooking, I’m sure you will be able to get it a bit quiet and settled, even if you are back from a stressful job to cook for your family.

I was reading a beautiful article by this website called Headspace and it asked us to follow 5 things while cooking. So here is a short summary:

  1. Recognise colours, flavours and smells what you are cooking
  2. Notice where your mind wants to travel while you are chopping/ washing vegetables, just to be aware of your mind
  3. Listen to the sound of the cumin seeds splutter while tempering your dal.
  4. Allow your mind and body to be present the moment when two flavours mix
  5. Observe your mind and let the senses help you get back to your cooking.

So, the next time you think about all the Why your spouse does not help you out in the kitchen, think about the privilege you have to relax your mind while cooking.

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NEVER EVER DO THIS! Even though she looks happy, she isnt cooking mindfully 😀 

Mindful Living

The first time I came across this word- Mindfulness was when I saw this picture and it made a lot of sense. mindfulness_poster_UK

It was the beginning of my work life as a sport psychologist in India and I was in middle of a career conflict. The conflict was about whether I could sustain in the field or not. Which is when I came across the concept of mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR). I read a lot about it and found it beneficial personally as well as professionally. I did the 8 week online program just to understand the basis of mindfulness when combined with psychology. The mindfulness meditation practice was impactful. This is when I decided I will learn more about mindfulness and its application in sports as well as in life.

Why mindfulness?

  • It is all about living in the present: We dream for the future, we analyse our mistakes in the past so that we do not repeat the same in the future. But we pay little attention to accept and enjoy the present. Mindfulness means living in the present, accepting it and committing to something which will enhance the present moment. Let us take an example of a young tennis player, who says:

“I find it very difficult to focus on where to hit my shot when I am at a crucial point in my match. I think a lot about what will happen if I don’t hit the shot well. Like I know for sure my mom will shout at me and my coach is going to give me a big lecture about how to hit the correct shot. Thinking about all this I don’t feel like playing and I just do what I predicted: hit a terrible shot”  

Why do you think all this happens? It is because she is living in the future, she is living in the future worries. But had she focused on the present- how to tackle and hit the shot in the right direction, it would have led her to focus on what she has to do, and not what could happen.

  • It is about accepting what is happening with you now. Many believe that if they are in pain or in sadness, what is the point of focusing on the present. It will lead to more sadness and pain. But what they do not realise this focusing on the present is the first step to accepting the fact that it has happened, and that is also the way to find solutions for the pain or the reason for the sadness and how can that be tackled. The acceptance is the key to resolve the present situation. If one does not accept that something has happened to him/ her, it is very difficult to look forward to better times.
  • It is about savouring the moment we live in without judging anyone or any situation.

This blog is for the daily sense of mindfulness that we can have in our life, sports, performance, exercise and health.