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January 2015

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Why Top Athletes Practice Mindfulness To Reach Peak Performance

By | Mindfulness | No Comments

Top athletes in a number of fields are getting a competitive edge through mindfulness. Already pushing their physical limits in the gym and on the practice field, the mind has become the next training ground for elite performers.

In football, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are well known for their commitment to mental excellence, driven by their head coach, Pete Carroll. He has a staff that works with players on developing mindfulness, so he can more easily direct each player’s focus:

“We don’t talk about mindfulness that much, but that’s how we operate. We focus on what’s right in front of us. We don’t care about the other team or the environment we’re playing in. We just take every game as if it’s the most important in the world and focus right on that. That takes great mindfulness.”

Michael Gervais is the sports psychologist who works with the team on meditation, visualization and more. His key to reaching peak performance is developing confidence:

“Confidence is the cornerstone of great performance… And it comes from just one place: what we say to ourselves…  you have to have a disciplined mind to focus on when you’ve been successful in the past and to bring that success into the present. Part of the training is being mindful, on a moment-to-moment basis, of whether you’re building or taking away from your confidence. The second part is being able to guide yourself back to the present moment and adopt a positive mindset about what is possible.”

The players have bought into the system as well. Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas describes his practice as essential to changing his perspective:

“When you’re quiet and don’t say anything, you start to see the unseen. That’s why people need to be observant and listen. When I turned my ears to listening, I improved, personally and in everything.”

“You’ve got to [meditate]. That’s how you get into the flow. That’s why I do my little dance, my back pedal, because I’m flowing with the offense. However, you’re going to get at me, I’m going to adapt. I’m going to flow with you like water.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson describes what they do in Seattle to think and perform at an elite level:

“We do imagery work and talk about having that innovative mindset of being special,” Wilson says. “We talk about being in the moment and increasing chaos throughout practice, so when I go into the game, everything is relaxed.”

That success has increased acceptance of mindfulness training in football, but it can also have other benefits. The University of Miami football team is part of a study examining mindfulness practice and its relationship to growth of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that shrinks from the rigors of football.

This success is not limited to football. Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master” is well known for his introduction of mindfulness into the daily routine of his basketball teams. His ability to make mindfulness practice accessible to his players and get buy in from his stars is part of why he won 11 NBA championships as a coach:

“A lot of our players in the NBA are from deeply religious families very much like my background… anything that would be a conflict of their religious beliefs I didn’t want to touch or get them upset about it… so we talked about mindfulness as being as much as we pump iron and we run to build our strength up, we need to build our mental strength up… we need to build our mental strength so we can focus, get one pointed attention, and so we can be in concert with each other in times of need… you do that through mindfulness. You reset yourself.”

Derek Fisher won multiple NBA titles under Phil Jackson, and now is implementing a mindfulness program for the New York Knicks, the team he now coaches:

“I think it falls into the category of mental performance. We’ve seen that evolve in professional sports in recent years where instead of always focusing on improving your performance in just the muscles and the bodies and the shooting, there is a very big muscle up here that also needs training sometimes,” Fisher said. “And so mindful training, mental performance, we take it seriously.”

During his tenure as a coach Phil Jackson worked with two of the greatest players in NBA history, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Not to be left behind, LeBron James famously has been captured doing breathing exercises during the NBA Finals.

The Boston Red Sox recently created a behavioral health department to supplement the efforts of their mental skills coach Bob Tewksbury. The new department’s emphasis will be on teaching mindfulness.

Top tennis player Novak Djokovic practices meditation and is known for his visits to a Buddhist center in Wimbledon village to recharge during the two-week long Grand Slam.

Mindfulness has also reached space (well, the subatmosphere at least). Felix Baumgartner’s famous jump almost did not happen due to his issues with claustrophobia. Dr. Gervais helped Baumgartner visualize success and practice mindfulness to overcome his anxiety and successfully make the jump.

Dr. Steve Hickman and researchers at UCSD have tested mindfulness training with olympic athletes and found that the same techniques to reduce anxiety and increase compassion can also help anyone reach peak performance:

“We know pretty conclusively that mindfulness training can help people with chronic pain and illness and this has been the focus of mindfulness training for 30 years. We also know that there is an amazing parallel between what we teach in mindfulness and the brains of peak performers.

“People have wondered if there is a ceiling effect and whether people who already have attributes of mindfulness might not achieve the same benefits. It’s looking like peak performers can benefit from mindfulness training and this means recreational athletes, as well as other peak performers in business, academia and other fields, could likely benefit, too.”

What’s holding you back? Take inspiration from these top performers and get started on your mindfulness practice today.

Photo Credit: Flickr

Don't Just Stand There, Meditate!

7 Trigger Moments During the Day to Remind You to Meditate

By | Mindfulness, Mindfulness and Life | No Comments

Despite your zen ambitions, it is easy to forget to stop and meditate each day. As people set a New Year’s resolution or personal goal to meditate daily, more and more will not reach their goal because they don’t develop a plan and stick to it.

You won’t be one of those people, because you’re powered with this. Behavior change is something we’ll cover more in later posts, but one of the keys is having the proper triggers-events that remind you to take action- to remind you of the desired behavior. Here are seven triggers you can use to meditate daily. Choose the one or more that you think will work best for you to keep a regular meditation practice.

1. When You Wake Up

First things first. This is my preferred time to do a single task. I currently am working on a daily goal of writing 750 words a day, and this post is a part of that. First thing in the morning is a great time because you just do it. It becomes your default action over time, just roll out of bed and get to your practice. Be aware to identify if you find yourself too groggy to get started. You should be meditating, not napping!

2. Before/After a meal

Meditating before a meal in particular can help you focus and prevent yourself from binge eating. By being more aware going into the meal, you can then also practice mindful eating. Sitting after a meal is an option as well, but try to not eat any foods that will overly distract you from your meditation practice. Be sure to pick a specific mealtime for each day, whether it is before breakfast, your mid-afternoon snack.

3. Before/After a workout

Get in the zone before you work out! Top athletes across the world are practicing mindfulness to reach their top performance level. Get yourself in the right state of mind to achieve your athletic goals with meditation before your workout. Like with meals, we don’t recommend a strong meditation after your workout, as you may be too fatigued to maintain your focus. However, post workout is a good time to reflect on what you just did, and think about ways to improve.

4. Before/After a meeting

Whether it is a meeting with an client, your staff, or just a family gathering, a meditation before a meeting or event can help you focus your thoughts and possibly encourage greater empathy.

This is particularly relevant before situations that will become testy or high anxiety. Help yourself out beforehand with a meditation, and be more aware of any of your impulsive moments. If you need to have an outburst, at least be under control of it.

Technology Hack: If you have a regular meeting and use any calendaring software, set an earlier reminder before your meeting to also prepare your mind for it. Add an extra 5 minutes or more for a quick meditation.

5. Before/During/After Your Commute

Road rage is easy – you don’t know the person, you are just yelling at a car with someone who is clearly an idiot or a maniac inside. If you know you are about to be in traffic that drains your spirit, take an extra three minutes and meditate before you take the road. It might cause you to have some empathy for the old lady who clearly has never heard of a turn signal.

If something bad happens on your drive and you feel it affecting you, take a moment to meditate before you go into your next location. The last thing you want is to project your frustration from a bad drive on to someone else who had nothing to do with it.

Public transit (or carpooling ) provides the opportunity to meditate while on the go. If you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes and tune out. Just be sure you don’t miss your stop!

6. Before Bed

You can purposefully practice meditation as a first step in the process of preparing for bed. A key here is to make sure you start this before you are too tired, and fall asleep before getting to the rest of your preparing for bed routine.

One of the top uses of meditation audio applications is to help with falling asleep. While it is slightly different, in that after the meditation you won’t be able to reflect on it, it is still better than nothing at all.
One of the best parts of using a biofeedback application like Clarity is that it trains you to calm the mind. Use the same process to fall asleep.

7. Set a daily alarm

Set a block of time out of your daily schedule for meditation, say a half hour at 2pm, and set it as a recurring event in your calendar. The key here is to stick to your time daily.

A simple trick is to set the even as a recurring event in your calendar. This way your daily practice time is protected against someone scheduling a meeting. If you use Clarity to practice meditation you can set a daily reminder time within the app.

8. Your Personal Trigger

We hope you find a way to practice in a way that suits you. These seven moments are great cues, but we invite you to consider what are the triggers that you find most suitable. When do you meditate? Leave a comment on Twitter or Facebook and share your tips on how you best find and make the time to meditate each day.

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Your Brain on Meditation: Clarity Report #1

By | Clarity | No Comments

People across the world are meditating and tracking their brainwaves with Clarity, our mindfulness system. With Clarity, users wear a portable brainwave sensing headset while listening to guided meditations through our mobile apps. In this post we are exposing some insider data into how people are using Clarity, and hope that it inspires you in your meditation practice. This Clarity user activity is for the week starting 12/29/2014:

The One Metric

Clarity users can see their meditation practice activity in a number of views.

Weekly Completed Sessions per Active User: 2.3 sessions (Goal: 4)

We aim for Clarity users to meditate as often as possible. At ThreePound, we like to have only one metric to improve to allow for focus. The metric chosen is sessions completed per active user. An active user is someone who completed at least one meditation session in the past 2 weeks (and joined earlier than 1 week ago). By optimizing on this metric, our goal is to find people who are excited about Clarity and give them more of what they want (and then go find more people like them!). As we work on improving the product experience, our aim is to identify new aspects of the user experience to improve our average weekly sessions. If you are a Clarity user, you can always contact us to provide your feedback!

How are people using Clarity?

Average Session Length: 470 seconds

The lessons included in Clarity range from 3 to 22 minutes. With our timer mode, users are able to set any time from 1-30 minutes of silence with brainwave tracking. Because the included lessons vary in length, our one true metric is focused on meditation sittings. We believe it is better to meditate for 10 minutes per day 5 days a week than to sit for 50 minutes one day per week. Note: We exclude any sessions under 60 seconds in this measurement and all others.

Brainwave Data – What are Clarity Minds Like?

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Clarity users wear a headset like this while meditating to get real time brainwave feedback and tracking.

So you’ve completed your Clarity session and see your brainwave results. How do they compare to others? In general, you should know that an elevated sense of relaxation or focus is over 60%, and a high sense of relaxation or focus is over 80%. But because we know you want to see how you stack up to other Clarity users, here are the average results:

Average Relaxation: 60.7%

Average Focus: 50.0%

So it seems the average Clarity user can relax by meditating. Mindfulness meditation is tricky in that these values will vary based on the type of meditation. Clarity contains meditations that use various techniques, including: focus on the breath, visualizations of settings and other people, and open awareness. These are all mixed together for now for simplicity.

Even though we are able to track your brainwave activity, we cannot stress enough that we believe that the power is in practicing mindfulness. These numbers do not define you or your practice, and should only be used for educational purposes.

Conclusion

We hope this helps you gain a little more insight into how others practice meditation through Clarity. Take some time to think about your personal meditation practice, and think about where you’d like it be. If you want a meditation experience that includes daily reminders, brainwave tracking, journaling and mood tracking, get started with Clarity today! Note: Time constraints might prevent this from being posted weekly, especially with any contextual commentary.

Download Clarity for iOS and Android Today

 Download on Google Play  Download on iTunes

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New Free eBook: 11 Ways To Stay Focused and Improve Your Productivity

By | General | No Comments

Our latest eBook is available for free: 11 Ways to Stay Focused and Improve Your Productivity (Besides Meditation).

While we are very excited about the benefits of mindfulness and meditation, we want to provide more ways for you to be successful in everything you wish to achieve. There are small changes you can make to your daily routine to reduce distractions, prioritize tasks, and get things done. This eBook introduces 11 different tips and tools along with sample apps to get you started. Examples include:

  • Read incoming articles later
  • Track your time
  • Use note taking tools
  • Outsource your meeting planning
  • And 7 more tips and applications to help you get started now!

What are you waiting for? Click below to access the eBook:

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