When I started meditating as a teenager, the word meditation was so taboo that my mother believed she went to a cult every week.
Fortunately, the mentality has evolved a lot in recent years, and today -especially after the pandemic- mental and emotional health is beginning to be given the important place it deserves, transcending the mere obsession with the body.
When highly-successful figures and outstanding performers in sports begin to speak openly about their mental preparation and meditation practices in a matter-of-fact manner, they set an example for millions of admirers. And that is something to celebrate!
Carlos Alcaraz’s meteoric career shows that without this mental and emotional work, you can’t get that far without internal imbalance.
In a recent interview, Novak Djokovic expressed it excellently: “I really believe in the power of the mind. If we all trained our minds as much as we trained our muscles and physical bodies, I believe we would achieve and maximize our potential. We don’t know how much we can really achieve until we have this kind of mindset of always wanting to evolve and improve.”
While some degree of stress is expected in some situations, such as a sports competition or a public presentation, we all need a way to moderate that stress. We must also resist internal and external distractions (anxiety, fear, constantly looking at the phone, etc.) to consistently make good decisions instead of reacting automatically and unconsciously.
For example, one major study found that those who reported a greater sense of mindfulness were more likely to experience a greater flow state (the feeling of being fully in the moment that has been linked to better performance). These individuals also scored higher in attention and emotion control, goal setting, and positive self-talk.
Mindfulness helps train the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that creates a calm and alert state of mind, helping us stay focused, avoid distractions, and perform at our best. That is why it is one of the best ways to calm the stress response in the brain. This allows us to be aware of our thoughts and emotions without getting attached to them or getting carried away.
Meditation, for example, has become an increasingly popular practice among NBA players in recent years. Great basketball players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have publicly expressed how meditation allows them to stay in the present moment and, at the same time, free their minds from the stress and fatigue that come from competing at the highest level. In addition, they confirm that it allows them to deal with the pressures of the game in a better way to remain focused and resistant, even when they have to face adversity.
Isn’t this what we all need?
“It’s Mindfulness, this kind of holistic approach to life that allows me to maximize my potential as a human being, from all aspects of my being, not just physical, but mental, emotional and spiritual”says Djokovic.
“I try to be disciplined with all these different types of exercises that I do on a daily basis, and they make me feel good, present, calm, and happy. At the end of the day, that is life’s purpose: to have an inner calm and to be happy, do what you like, and enjoy every moment of this life”.
Indeed, without mental training, advancing in any area of your life is impossible.
Remember, you cannot enjoy without inner peace, no matter how many peaks you climb.