When athletes are at their best, they are not over-thinking their every move. More often than not, they may not be thinking at all! Many athletes refer to being “in the zone” when they have reached peak performance during a game or competition. Everything slows down, and they tap into a sense of deep focus, and even the sound of the audience all but disappears.
You’ll now be wondering if this is all just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, and if it’s for real, whether or not it is even achievable. If you do a bit of research, you’ll find that ‘the zone’ is real, and athletes even refer to it as being in ‘the flow’, as if they are flowing with a river.
You may feel that no amount of additional practice is helping your game, or that you’re stuck at your current level of playing. If this sounds like you, there are some things that you can do to improve, but they are often mental more than they are physical.
When you’re at bat, you may be trying to remember a million things, and you may also be thinking about various non-baseball daily occurrences (what you’ll have for lunch, who you need to call or text after the game, what your plans are for the weekend, etc.). The first thing that experts suggest is that you concentrate on what’s exactly at hand, and you learn to turn off the chitter-chatter that’s constantly banging about in your head.
How to Quiet the Banter in Your Mind?
It may sound simple, but turning down the volume on background thoughts and then eventually learning to turn them off takes time and practice. Being able to do so sounds much easier than it actually is. Like anything, you are going to have to practice. Luckily, it only takes five to ten minutes a day.
Sit in a quiet place, away from distractions (phones, computers, other people) for five minutes. You can do this sitting up, on the floor or in a chair, or even lying down – but make sure you do not go to sleep! During the first five minutes, pay attention to all of the thoughts that cross your mind. A million things, right!!?? In just five minutes of staying still, your thoughts have probably been to the moon and back. It’s rare in this day and age that we give ourselves quiet time and observe the course of our thoughts.
The second time that you sit for five minutes, try and take deep breaths and focus on your breathing, and try to not let anything enter your mind. It may seem like the longest five minutes in the world, and it will be incredibly difficult to do. During this time, focus on being present. Just being there.
When thoughts enter your mind, you will want to acknowledge that they are there, and then try to let them go so you can focus on being present.
Try to take five minutes a day to pay attention to the noise in your head and to try to turn down, and maybe even off, the volume. Once you are able to do this (it may take several months or even years of practice), the 5 minutes will fly by quickly. You may wish to increase the time that you practice being present up to 10 or even 12 minutes.
The next step is to bring this state of mental quiet and presence onto the ball field. Try, at first, to take this state of mind into other daily situations where you’re being bombarded by other distractions. Try it when you’re on the bus, or try it when you are in the shower. When you’re able to bring this state of mental awareness into practice or even the game, you’ll be quite surprised at the level of focus you’ll be able to attain.