You've probably heard of mindfulness' benefits for your overall stress levels, but if you're an athlete part, it might even help your performance, too. On June 7, the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), the National Basketball League (NBA), and mediation app Headspace launched a Performance Mindset section of the app, where WNBA and NBA players Kyle Kuzma, Ricky Rubio, Sue Bird, and Nneka Ogwumike will share how mediation has had positive impacts on both their athletic performance and their personal lives in a series of videos. The new feature also includes advice from Andy Puddicombe, Headspace’s meditation expert and co-founder, along with 16 curated meditation courses.
In the videos, the players speak about how mediation has helped them build what Headspace describes as the four key pillars of a Performance Mindset: Managing Pressure, Focus, Confidence, and Resilience. It’s exciting news for Headspace users who are interested in improving their athletic performance and learning from their favorite basketball players.
"Performance Mindset combines the influence of the NBA and WNBA with the expertise and accessibility of Headspace to inspire, guide and support our members and fans to build their mental fitness and unlock their full potential," Lindsay Shaffer, Head of Sport at Headspace, said in a press release.
Nneka Ogwumike, a 2016 WNBA MVP and WNBA Champion for the Los Angeles Sparks, feels that mediation has helped her improve focus. In the video, she said that “ focus is going to stray, that focus is going to bounce around… the skill is being able to hone it back it in.” Ogwumike also said that excessive multi-tasking, while tempting, doesn’t improve ones’ performance. “It takes a lot of patience with yourself to understand that you need to attend to the moment, because we want to be able to multitask. But I think that the highest level athletes are really great at attending to one thing at a time, and that really culminates into this great moment, this great game, this great play.”
For Sue Bird, a three-time WNBA Champion, 11-time WNBA All-Star, and point guard for the Seattle Storm, the Headspace app allows her to build confidence in stressful moments during games or practices. “The more you are uncomfortable, and the more you succeed in those situations and scenarios, the confidence does come. The more you seek to get your confidence from other people, that’s just so flimsy… it has to come from within,” Bird said in her video clip.
A crucial part of health is not only tending to the physical needs of your body, but your emotional and mental needs. Mediation has been shown to help athletes with pain reduction, calm the fear center of the brain, improve the immune system, and increase sleep quality.
Clearly, mindfulness and meditation is important for athletes, but it also can help those of us who are not on a neighborhood softball league. For those who experience depression or anxiety, mediation has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of those conditions. It can also improve your social life, making you more compassionate and increasing your emotional intelligence, and improving your sex life. And it can help you stop smoking, which can prevent respiratory diseases.
In addition to the Headspace app, there are many ways to access the healing benefits of mediation. Many counselors and therapists will help their patients learn new techniques to calm their thoughts. Also, mediation is becoming a built-in part of many exercise classes, like yoga.
This partnership between the WNBA, the NBA, and Headspace will illuminate the ways that athletes can improve their game through mediation and mindfulness. But really, research shows that this is a form of mental health exercise that could benefit just about anyone.