In a remarkable collaborative study between the Dali Lama and some of the country’s finest neuroscientists, researchers found that meditation and mindfulness training enhances the brain’s ability to eliminate distressing feelings in favor of optimistic, upbeat feelings and thoughts. In their article in the peer-reviewed journal Psychosomatic Medicine, Drs. Davidson and Kabat-Zinn also reported that training in mindfulness meditation also supports and strengthens the immune system.
Mental Focus is the key to BodyMind health
In Outdoor Fitness, you cultivate mental focus just as you develop physical strength and endurance. It’s a component to all the workouts, a skill to develop and hone, a tool to spur you to greater achievements and better health for your bodymind. What is mental focus? Simply, it’s the ability to concentrate on the task at hand, to put your attention on the present moment, without interruption from internal chatter or external distractions.
Another way to express this is in terms of mindfulness. When you are mindful, your mind is full of this moment. You’re not planning your next workout, or replaying a conversation from earlier in the day. You’re not worrying about what you’re boss will think of your latest brief, or beating yourself up for not running an 8-minute mile. You are immersed, simply and completely, in now. In a very real sense, mindfulness is the mental equivalent of kinesthetic awareness. Just as your body is attuned to its moment-to-moment environment, your mind is aware of and occupied in a moment-to-moment consciousness.
The benefits of mindfulness, and of mental focus training, go way beyond a more peaceful and effective workout. The positive effects of mindfulness cut across all aspects of your life. You experience
• decrease in stress
• increase in your sense of well being
• feeling more engaged at work and in relationships
• better social interaction
• more energy
• less anxiety
• greater emotional control
• better mood
• greater ability to concentrate
• greater productivity
Mental Imagery: Visualize your best self
One of the best ways to prepare for a challenging workout or athletic endeavor is to prepare your mind with uplifting, positive images. This is a great exercise to do during your warm up. You can also use imagery exercises during a specific exercise, or during a cardio session.
Exercise: Close your eyes. Imagine yourself performing well during your workout. Feel your lungs filling with air, your breath originating with the deep exhale of the diaphragm. Feel your head held upright, your eyes forward, taking in the path ahead and the beauty of the scenery. See yourself moving confidently over your terrain. Imagine yourself feeling energized, confident and powerful. See yourself gliding over the terrain. Do you feel your muscles begin to twitch? Good. Now, put one step in front of the other, and repeat. Step into the picture and feel how easily your body and mind begin to flow into your workout.