Enhance your performance and mental prowess with this one simple exercise.
(CLICK FOR EXERCISE PODCAST)
Just as flexibility and strength are acquired skills, so too is mental focus. It’s not always easy to be mindful in our world. Distractions that take you out of the moment lurk everywhere. In a workout, just as in our lives, distractions can be both internal and external. External distractions during a workout are legion and varied: other people talking, traffic, animals, activity on the street or scenery on the trail. Internal distractions are sometimes less obvious, but are no less potent challenges to mental focus. Our self-talk—the running commentary that we all carry in our minds—is a constant challenge to mindfulness. Self-talk often becomes habitual and rote. We think the same negative thoughts over and over again, sabotaging our mood and performance. So many of our negative thoughts have been with us for years, chipping away at our self-esteem and our belief in our abilities. With mindfulness training, you can replace these negative thoughts with a new, positive set of thoughts and beliefs about yourself. You get to create a new, fresh set of thoughts, images and beliefs about who you are and what you’re capable of.
Learning to be mindful begins with understanding the ways our brains are not in the moment. The exercise below is one you’ll return to again and again in your workouts. This simple exercise can help erase distractions by identifying thoughts that pass through your brain, then releasing them. You can use this exercise during a workout, or in a meditation session.
PMJ Exercise: Plans, Memories, Judgments
All your thoughts can be broken down into three basic types.
• Plans: Goals, lists, plans for the future (What’s for dinner? What do I really want to do with my career? I need to get my car inspected.)
• Memories: Thoughts from or about the past (Yesterday’s tense conversation with your boyfriend, last year’s raucous holiday party, the fight you had with your mom before leaving for college)
• Judgment: Thoughts, feelings, and opinions (My butt is saggy. I hated that movie last night. My boss is a terror.)
This exercise is simple, and so effective at dismissing all these distractions to mindfulness. To begin, let your mind go to whatever thoughts it wants. When a thought arises, identify it for yourself as a plan, a memory, or a judgment. Once you’ve identified the thought, release it. Poof! Just like that, it’s gone. When you find yourself having difficulty clearing your mind, ask yourself: What is my next thought? Notice what happens? Poof! Just like that your mental screen is clear. Asking this question brings you right back to the present!