Mindfulness: The science

By SFC Media time Wed 29 Apr Club

Club psychologists Amy Spencer and Dr. Greg Clarke continue to unpack the fundamentals behind mindfulness, and begin to explain how this can be applied to every day life in lockdown...

What's being discussed this week?

- The science behind mindfulness and how our brain reacts

- The interaction between thoughts, emotions, physiology and behaviour

- Self-reflection: How and why judgements can take us away from reality

- How does all of this apply to sport and football?

Mindfulness: Getting to grips with the science (it helps)

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years; the ability to practice non-judgemental awareness of moment to moment experiences.

Science is linking mindfulness to health and well-being, explaining that daily mindfulness practice can be good for our overall wellness. That is particularly true of the present moment, where the world is facing an unprecedented threat and different challenges from day to day.

Although originating from Buddhist practices, much of the scientific research has addressed mindfulness awareness on the brain and the immune function, as well as psychological and interpersonal changes that occur from mindful meditation.

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Science has shown that the way we intentionally pay attention and tune into the body induces a state of brain activation during the practice.

With repetition, an intentionally created state can in time have long-term changes in the brain function and structure; ultimately changing the ‘make-up’ of the brain.

This is called neuroplasticity – the brain changes in response to its experience. Through mindfulness practice, and concentrating attention in a particular way, we're allowing this process to occur.

Interaction: The mind and body (spoiler: they're linked)

What science is telling us is that the mind and body are inexplicably connected.

A chain reaction occurs, so when we have thoughts, we feel emotions, feel a change in the body, and will act on our impulses.

It can be known as the ‘Hot Cross Bun’. These four experiences feed each other and without being aware of them, they can work together to cause worry, frustration, and stress - which all has an adverse effect on our lives.

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When this happens a part of our brain is activated; the Amygdala.

The Amygdala is the oldest part of the brain, and is designed for survival, allowing us to react to any given situation within a split second.

When the Amygdala is activated we are unable to process what is happening through our logical thinking part of the brain.

Instead, the Amygdala prevents us from being able to do things like make rational decisions, think clearly, and analyse a situation appropriately.

It simply triggers a process in the body that leads to quick, efficient (but not always suitable) action.

Here's an opportunity to practice by anchoring or grounding our awareness in something we can sense, like breathing. Try it out:

Being open to self-reflection (it really can reduce stress)

If we, as human beings, don’t deal with these stressors effectively, our hormones (such as cortisol and adrenaline) will be stored in the body without being used.

If we fail to release this, the build up over time will increase our baseline levels of stress. It could lead to over-thinking or distraction.

It is vital that we ensure our minds and bodies have the space and time to recover and regenerate. Never more so than now, as we tackle daily challenges that we haven't before encountered.

Mindfulness allows our brains to dampen down the Amygdala; creating a space for different perspective and allowing the body and mind to rest and recover.

How does this apply to sport? (the players use it, genuinely)

Allow Greg and Amy to talk you through the process in the video below. You can also listen to and practice the mindfulness exercise above.

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