The Benefits of Mindfulness: an Interview with Thomas Singleton

The practice of mindfulness is something that many people have heard about, but not everyone truly understands. This is why I'm excited to share with you my interview with Thomas Singleton, a sports psychology graduate student at Boston University who focuses on the topic of mindfulness. Here is our conversation. I hope you enjoy it!

SPT: Hi Thomas, could you help me define what exactly mindfulness is?

TS: Mindfulness is a focus on the present moment. It includes recognizing your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations and observing them without judgment. Mindfulness can be used to separate you – your consciousness – from your thoughts, emotions, and urges.

SPT: How can mindfulness help athletes perform better in games?

TS: In order to play their best, athletes need to be present and aware of what is happening. With mindfulness, we can recognize our negative thoughts and feelings, not judge them or deny them, and then bring our focus back to what we need to do in order to perform well.

This is especially important during high-pressure situations, where it's common to feel nervous, doubtful, or scared. During these moments, it's easy to think about the possible outcomes of the game and worry about what happens if you win or lose. Being able to separate yourself - your consciousness - from your negative thoughts/emotions can help you return to the present moment and perform your best under pressure.

SPT:  What are the mental health benefits of mindfulness?

TS: Many mental health issues occur when we get caught up in the past or future. For example, depression often involves a preoccupation with the past, whereas anxiety involves an excessive preoccupation with the future. Mindfulness can help alleviate these mental health issues by bringing us back to the present moment.

Also, by helping us create a healthy, nonjudgmental relationship with our thoughts, mindfulness can also improve our self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth.

Furthermore, mindfulness is known to increase compassion and empathy for others, which improves our relationships, which then improves our own mental health.

SPT: How can mindfulness be incorporated into an athlete's training and pre-game routines?

TS: Incorporating mindfulness into your everyday activities can be powerful. No matter what you're doing, whether you are cleaning dishes, taking a hike in the woods, or playing your sport, you can do it in a more mindful, nonjudgmental manner. The more you practice mindfulness in your everyday life, the better you'll get at it!

You can train your mind to be more effective and healthier just like you can train your muscles to get bigger and stronger. The most powerful way to practice mindfulness is through meditation. By taking just a few minutes every day to simply observe your thoughts and bring your attention back to your breathing or body sensations, you can greatly strengthen your mind and improve your mental health.

SPT: How can coaches incorporate mindfulness into their team culture and system?

TS: The most important thing is to teach your players what mindfulness is, and then demonstrate how mindfulness can improve performance. Coaches can set time aside to do team meditations during practice or before games. They can also remind players to take a couple deep breaths during timeouts in games to relax their bodies and refocus their minds. Doing these things on a regular basis can greatly improve a team's performance and mental health.

If you want to learn more about mindfulness, you can connect with Thomas Singleton using these links: