Posts

10 Books on Mindfulness Training to up Your Game

1) Mindfulness for Beginners (John Kabat-Zinn)

I first discovered Mindfulness for Beginners as a runner in university. I was fascinated by the idea of training the mind to unlock my potential. Fortunately, Kabat-Zinn’s work taught me that everything we need is already inside. In Mindfulness for Beginners, Kabat-Zinn gives an in-depth explanation of what it means to practice mindful attention in both an informal and formal way. He also gives one of the best operational definitions of mindfulness to start the book. Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness as “paying attention to the present moment on purpose in a non-judgmental way.” He later goes on to describe how to practice each component of his definition (paying attention to the present, living intentionally and non-judgmental attitudes) by using stories and gives practical steps to advance your mindfulness practice. What I like so much about Kabat-Zinn is that it takes away the supernatural aspects that people may associate with practicing meditation and focuses on the real and now. This can be summed well by this line from Mindfulness for Beginners:

“The fact of the matter is that meditation is not about navel-gazing or giving up functioning in the world. Nor is it about giving up engaging passionately in projects of real value and getting things done, nor will it make you stupid or rob you of ambition or motivation.” (p. 80)

2) Wherever You Go, There You Are (John Kabat-Zinn, MD)

Wherever you go, there you are is another great book written by Kabat-Zinn. In case you were unaware, Kabat-Zinn started the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction medical model back in the 80s and 90s which has been effective in pain management for several chronic diseases. This book digs into his philosophy and years of practice by giving brief passages to reflect on while practicing meditation. One of my favorite lines from this book talks about how telling people about how you’re meditating kills your momentum and motivation to mentally train. In the words of Kabat-Zinn, “It’s best to meditate without advertising.”

3) Mindfulness on the Go: Simple meditation practices you can do anywhere (Jan Chozen Bays, MD)

After reading the intros to the first two books on this list, you may think, “How  am I supposed to do this? I hate sitting as it is, now I have to pay attention to it?” Well, it’s a lot simpler than you may be imagining or worrying about. Bays wrote this book to give her audience simple, meaningful mindfulness exercises to start doing. These practices would be what Kabat-Zinn considers informal exercises, but the reality is that you must stay present either way. My favorite exercise from the book is seeing how long you can focus on the sensation of your feet on the ground during the day. I do this exercise when I’m on a long run or track workout and things are starting to hurt.Rewire also has some great meditations to help center yourself throughout your day that are quick and informal. One of my favorites is Pranayama or alternate nostril breathing to help center me during the day.  Mindfulness On the Go is packed with different exercises to informally insert present-moment awareness  throughout your day.

4) Slalom: 6 River Classes about How to Confront Obstacles, Advance Amid Uncertainty, & Bring Focus to What Matters Most (Joe Jacobi, OLY)

If you want to read something simple yet profound about learning how to be present during difficult times, I suggest reading Slalom. Jacobi is a distinguished athlete (10x national champion and Olympic Gold Medalist) who understands how to get the best of yourself and others during trying times. I picked up this book earlier this summer as I was beginning to practice open water swimming in Lake Michigan. I was always uncertain about swimming in open water and have had periods of intense anxiety towards it. However, Jacobi’s advice of building what he called an “unlikely collaboration” certainly helped me redefine my relationship with uncertainty and get out of my comfort zone further. Another way I have been deliberately adding obstacles is by adding post-workout Rewire sessions after harder days on the track or in the gym. 

5) The Mind Illuminated: A Complete Meditation Guide Integrating Buddhist Wisdom and Brain Science for Greater Mindfulness (John Yates, Matthew Immergut and Jeremy Graves)

If you have read Mindfulness for Beginners and have made it this far, you’ll be glad to note this book gives an in-depth approach to the use of mindfulness training in your everyday life. The Mind Illuminated is essentially a practical manual for meditation practitioners to guide others through a transcendent experience. What I liked about this book is that Yates and co. talk about how several cultures outside of eastern Asia have their own history of practices that develop a present moment awareness. The authors of this book also go into detail about how to overcome several barriers that may occur as someone goes through a mindfulness practice. I like to read this book more as a workout plan for your mind. You don’t do everything in a single activity and expect to be fully present 100% of the time, right? Neither should you expect that from this book. Rather, this book can take weeks if you’re practicing and trying to troubleshoot different aspects of your mental practice. 

6) Mindsight (Dan Siegel, MD)

Personally, this was one of my favorite books to read throughout grad school, and one that I’m hoping to reread within the next year. In Mindsight, Dr. Siegel goes on to explain what mindsight is- the trainable skill to separate ourselves from our emotional responses. The idea of perceiving the mind as separate from ourselves comes from multiple cultural traditions including the stoics and Buddhists. How we perceive our emotions can change how we react to them. Dr. Siegel goes on to also explain the neurobiological mechanisms that occur when we can “name and tame” our emotions. When we develop this form of attention, we can clearly understand our own responses, habits and take control over our emotional intelligence. 

7) The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance (George Mumford)

Mumford has been a force in the mindfulness training community for decades. If you open his book, you’ll read reviews from athletes at the high school, college and professional level who only talk about the benefits of meditation. In the Mindful Athlete, Mumford digs into the power to stay present and locked in during important performances. It is a power (or rather superpowers) that every athlete has inside of them and only learns to unleash through mindfulness training. He teaches us through his words that mindfulness training isn’t a destination, but a journey. On that journey, you might find greatness along the way. To summarize this, the first few lines of Mumford’s journey can pull anyone into this book for hours:

“Pain brought me to mindfulness, not any desire to reach nirvana or pop out of any chrysalis. It was unlearning certain habits and thought patterns hard-wired in my brain and walking through my pain, rather than avoiding it, that ultimately put me on a joyful journey of self-discovery.”

8) Good Morning, I Love You (Shauna Shapiro, PhD)

This is a book that I’ve gifted to nearly every person I know who has experienced chronic pain. In Good Morning, I Love You, Shapiro retells her story of being a competitive volleyball player whose career was upended by a severe back injury. After a trip with her best friends to study meditation in southeast Asia, Shapiro noticed differences in herself. This led her on a journey to become a clinical health psychologist who specializes in mindfulness training. Shapiro gives meditations to practice for beginners, as well prompts that she has used in her own practice to help her develop her own mental training. 

9) 4,000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (Oliver Burkeman)

These last two books are not focused on meditation training specifically. Rather, they will change your view of reality and teach you what it really means to be intentional. My grandfather always told me that you don’t find time for the things you care about, you make time. In Burkeman’s 4,000 Weeks, he eloquently digs into the fact that are culture of productivity is built upon smoke and mirrors. The fact is that we only have so much time to do something meaningful on this planet and time itself is a reality, not a resource. The most powerful lesson I learned from this was much like a budget, to make you pay yourself first with your time during the day. I usually start with a readiness assessment from Rewire when I finally look at my phone and practice meditation for the first 15-20 minutes of my day.  I’ll let you dig into the rest of the details and have your own epiphany, but if you want something to reinforce your intentional and deliberate practice during the work week, I highly suggest you read this book. If you want more strategies on how to pay yourself first in the morning with your time, I also suggest this post on how to master your morning routine. 

10) This Is Water: Some thoughts, delivered on a significant occasion about living a compassionate life (David Foster Wallace)

Lastly, if you need something brief to help you break out of autopilot, This is Water is just for you. This essay takes about 30-35 minutes to read, but hours of deliberate practice to fully comprehend if you’re like me. Wallace wrote this in a contrarian style when he was asked to give a commencement speech at Kenyon College. The premise of this book is that the young graduates who he was addressing had no idea of what kind of world they were just about to enter after getting into college. So many people live their lives unconsciously in doing mode, that they never contemplate the reality of the world they live in. This is the water that Wallace addresses in his first few lines of the speech. After reading this essay, I hope you begin to understand the difference between living your regular 9-5 lifestyle, that comfortable routine you can shut your mind off in. Instead, I hope you learn what it means to live a meaningful and intentional life by delving into at least one of the few books that I’ve laid out for you here. 


These books are just a guide to get started on developing your own mindfulness practice. I’ll be honest in saying that I’m still working through some of these books as I explore my own meditation practice. I hope these books give you a guide to start thinking about both the philosophy and practical application mindfulness training can play in your athletic careers.

Through mindfulness training, you can develop a powerful mind-body connection which can increase your performances.  Jumpstart your mindfulness practice by using the Mindset Recovery tools provided within the Rewire app and help you track of your mental training.

Click Here Download the Rewire App and Join Our Community for Free.


START FREE TODAY

The Benefits of Mindfulness Without Meditation

When we think of mindfulness, often the images that spring to mind are of sitting in a darkened room with crossed legs, deep in meditation. It is easy to think of this as all there is to mindfulness, and to not always identify with it ourselves, especially for those of us leading active lifestyles or those who have tried meditation and not found it to work.

However, excluding mindfulness practices from our routines altogether could be detrimental – the benefits of mindfulness are far reaching.

As with many elements of sports training, those who practise it can see improvements outside of their sporting life as well; mindfulness practitioners can see improvements in both empathy and compassion (1). Back in the sporting world, we can find the practice helps us better regulate our emotions, and decrease stress, anxiety, pessimism and mental fatigue (1-5). All are benefits that you can find aids you as a sportsperson, regardless of discipline.

Although different definitions of mindfulness can be found across the internet and beyond, it is best described as “moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience, without judgement” (1). The practices that can bring about this vary, and can be active, as well as passive, more suited to the more animated and outdoorsy amongst us.

With both the holistic and sport-specific benefits on offer, mindfulness can be an attractive prospect to add into your routine. However, as not everyone finds meditation works for them, there are multiple and varied ways of introducing the benefits of mindfulness for yourself.

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are a type of auditory stimulation that has been linked with increased focus for those listening for just twelve minutes, reducing the wandering of the mind that might occur during a long training session, for example (6).

In sport, perception of how you feel can be as important as the physical reality, and binaural beats have also been seen to improve the perception of sleep and motivation in sportspeople (7).

Guided Breathing

Guided breathing is frequently recommended as a method of stress and anxiety reduction (8,9). 

By focusing on breathing, even while doing other activities, you can bring about a state of mindfulness, with the ‘moment-to-moment awareness’ of your breathing aiding relaxation and focus.

Box breathing is commonly used by the Navy SEALs as a method of staying calm and performing under pressure. This methodology is also applicable to all high performing individuals, including athletes, who will find benefit from using box breathing in preparation for a competition.

Subliminal Priming

Subliminal priming is the use of visual, auditory, or other cues that occur below the threshold of perception, such that they are only perceived subconsciously. 

Priming sees the most significant effect when those using it are motivated to pursue the goal that they are priming in themselves, but can increase motivation, and feelings of self-efficacy, especially when combined with other techniques (10,11).

We developed Rewire with athletes in mind, to highlight and develop the cognitive side of sports performance.

Rewire’s Mindset Recovery system contains a range of protocols to help you enhance your performance, with binaural beats, guided breathing, and subliminal priming alongside various other neurological and psychological protocols like visualization and self-talk.

Start your free trial with Rewire today to get the benefits of mindfulness without meditation.

Start Free Today

References

1. Davis DM, Hayes JA. What are the benefits of mindfulness? A practice review of psychotherapy-related research. Psychotherapy (Chicago). 2011 Jun; 48(2): 198-208. doi: 10.1037/a0022062.

2. Corcoran KM, Farb N, Anderson A, Segal ZV. Mindfulness and emotion regulation: Outcomes and possible mediating mechanisms. In Kring AM, Sloan DM. Emotion regulation and psychopathology: A transdiagnositc approach to etiology and treatment. New York: Guildford Press; 2010. p. 339-355.

3. Shapiro SL, Schwartz GE, Bonner G. Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioural Medicine. 1998 Dec; 21(6): 581-599. doi: 10.1023/a:1018700829825.

4. Rosenzweig S, Reibel DK, Greeson JM, Brainard GC, Hojat M. Mindfulness-based stress reduction lowers psychological distress in medical students. Teaching and Learning in Medicine. 2003 Sprint; 15(2): 88-92. doi: 10.1207/S15328015TLM1502_03.

5. Scott-Hamilton J, Schutte NS, Brown RF. Effects of a Mindfulness Intervention on Sports-Anxiety, Pessimism, and Flow in Competitive Cyclists. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being. 2016 Mar; 8(1): 85-103. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12063.

6. Axelsen JL, Kirk U, Staiano W. On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement. 2020; 4: 31-39. doi: 10.1007/s41465-019-00162-3.

7. Abeln V, Kleinert J, Strueder HK, Schneider S. Brainwave entrainment for better sleep and post-sleep state of young elite soccer players – A pilot study. European Journal of Sport Science. 2014; 14(5): 393-402. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2013.819384.

8. NHS. NHS. [Online].; 2018 [cited 2021 Sep 23. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/.

9. Isle of Wight NHS Trust. Isle of Wight NHS Trust. [Online]. [cited 2021 Sep 24. Available from: https://www.iow.nhs.uk/Downloads/Chronic%20Pain/Stress%20and%20Relaxation.pdf.

10. Strahan EJ, Spencer SJ, Zanna MP. Subliminal priming and persuasion: Striking while the iron is hot. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 2002 Nov; 38(6): 556-568. doi: 10.1016/S0022-1031(02)00502-4.

11. Pettit JA, Karageorghis CI. Effects of video, priming, and music on motivation and self-efficacy in American football players. International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching. 2020 Dec; 15(5-6): 685-695. doi: 10.1177/1747954120937376.

Join Our Community Today!

A 101 Guide to Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are a form of brainwave entrainment that have been shown to have positive effects on stress, anxiety (1,2), focus (3), motivation, confidence and meditation (4). Binaural beats work when two different frequencies are heard, one in each ear. This creates a third tone, the binaural beat, whose frequency is the difference between the two other tones, e.g. if the tone in one ear is 400Hz and the other is 410Hz, the binaural beat is 10Hz. This binaural beat is shown to have a positive impact on the user’s mindset. It is important to note that stereo headphones are required to achieve a binaural beat since when using a speaker or non-stereo headphones the frequencies are already mixed outside the brain and hence no binaural beat is created.

The various tones of binaural beats affect the user differently. The following tones are used in the Rewire Mindset Recovery System:

  • 0.5 – 3.5 Hz – Delta wave for deep sleep
    • In a 2018 study, participants who received this frequency during sleep entered deep sleep quicker and for longer (5). This allows participants to gain more of the benefits of deep sleep including physical recovery.
  • 4.0 – 6.5 Hz – Theta for meditation/sleep
    • A 2017 study showed that even listening to a 6Hz binaural beat for just 10 minutes induced the user’s brain into a state similar to that achieved during meditation (4).
  • 7.0 – 12.5 Hz – Alpha for relaxation/dreams
    • In a 1990 study, alpha wave binaural beats were shown to have a positive influence on the user’s relaxation (6).
  • 13.0 – 38.5 – Beta for Activity            
    • It has been shown that beta wave binaural beats can positively affect vigilance performance and mood (3), and a recent 2019 study showed that beta wave binaural beats have a positive impact on long term memory (7).

Binaural beats also have a positive effect in counteracting the negative effects of mental fatigue. A recent 2020 study showed that binaural beats reduce the negative effect of mental fatigue (8). This makes binaural beats an important part of mindset recovery and pre-competition preparation in sports to minimise the negative effects that mental fatigue is shown to have on endurance performance (9,10).

We have put together a demo of our mindset recovery system featuring theta wave binaural beats which you can watch and download below.

You can also hear what binaural beats sound like raw and play around with different tones here.

Join Our Community!

References

1.        Padmanabhan R, Hildreth AJ, Laws D. A prospective, randomised, controlled study examining binaural beat audio and pre-operative anxiety in patients undergoing general anaesthesia for day case surgery. Anaesthesia. 2005; 

2.        Garcia-Argibay M, Santed MA, Reales JM. Efficacy of binaural auditory beats in cognition, anxiety, and pain perception: a meta-analysis. Psychol Res. 2019; 

3.        Lane JD, Kasian SJ, Owens JE, Marsh GR. Binaural auditory beats affect vigilance performance and mood. Physiol Behav. 1998; 

4.        Jirakittayakorn N, Wongsawat Y. Brain responses to a 6-Hz binaural beat: Effects on general theta rhythm and frontal midline theta activity. Front Neurosci. 2017; 

5.        Jirakittayakorn N, Wongsawat Y. A Novel Insight of Effects of a 3-Hz Binaural Beat on Sleep Stages During Sleep. Front Hum Neurosci. 2018; 

6.        Foster DS. EEG and Subjective Correlates of Alpha-Frequency Binaural-Beat Stimulation Combined with Alpha Biofeedback. 1990; 

7.        Garcia-Argibay M, Santed MA, Reales JM. Binaural auditory beats affect long-term memory. Psychol Res. 2019; 

8.        Axelsen JL, Kirk U, Staiano W. On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue. J Cogn Enhanc. 2020; 

9.        Marcora SM, Staiano W, Manning V. Mental fatigue impairs physical performance in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009; 

10.      Lopes TR, Oliveira DM, Simurro PB, Akiba HT, Nakamura FY, Okano AH, et al. No Sex Difference in Mental Fatigue Effect on High-Level Runners’ Aerobic Performance. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 2020;Volume Pub. 

The High-Pressure Lifestyle of an Elite Athlete and the Techniques used to Combat Stress

An athlete’s life is fairly unique when compared to the general population. Apart from the obvious exchange of a suit for a tracksuit, their objectives are different too. For many athletes, their efforts accumulate and build up to a major event at the end of a cycle. This could be the Olympics or World Cup every four years or a league final at the end of a year. In this crucial event, it is imperative that they perform to the best of their ability. Their performance on that day not only affects them but also all those that have helped them get to that point: coaches, sponsors, family, support staff and fans all rely on their success to varying degrees in addition to the athlete themselves.

An athlete needs to be at peak health at all times. This means complete focus on everything that they put into and do to their body. Training routines and nutrition plans are regimented and there are limited opportunities to relax this. Lots of sleep is needed to ensure recovery in order to perform and benefit from the next day of training. This regimented lifestyle as well as the reliance from others creates an inevitable sense of pressure. And from pressure comes stress. As they approach a big event an athlete needs focus, and stress does not always help the athlete achieve this.

Whilst sports psychologists might be in place, some things can simply impede performance. Be that impending parenthood, illness, or the death of a loved one. We’ve seen this before, in the 2016 Australian Open Final, Andy Murray looked visibly distracted and lost in straight sets. Why? His wife, Kim, was about to give birth to their first child, whilst he was on the other side of the world. These kinds of distractions can be almost impossible to resist, and whilst it is more than understandable to be distracted by the idea of imminently becoming a father, we can still look for ways of keeping focus even at the most challenging of times.

In his autoethnography, Bradford Cooper talks about the mental toughness needed to overcome setbacks and frustrations during the Race Across America in which he was part of a 2-man team. These setbacks included needing to cover his teammate’s night pull after just after coming off a 5-hour pull, as well as being given the wrong directions by his daughter and having to turn round to get back on track. These kinds of setbacks cause frustration, mental fatigue and stress but with the right training, the effects of it can be minimized.

To stay in control in times of pressure and stress, athletes spend time practising mindfulness. Mindfulness practices help an athlete stay in control at times when they need it most. It has been shown that by practising meditation, stress levels can be reduced allowing for increased focus and concentration. Those regularly using meditation have also been shown to have improved sleep including more time spent in deep sleep and increased hormone release allowing for better recovery. Athletes also benefit from spending time during mindfulness to visualise success and create goals, allowing in turn for increased motivation and work ethic to develop their athletic performance. A recent study also showed that the use of binaural beats helps to counteract the effects of mental fatigue. Their findings demonstrate that binaural beats are an effective technique alongside mindfulness at enhancing cognitive control.

Practising mindfulness can help an athlete get into the ‘flow’, which is poetically described by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as a state of being ‘completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.’ This is a state we have likely all experienced at some point in our life, where we become incredibly productive. Whilst this state might come and go naturally with motivation, practising mindfulness allows us to maintain a state of ‘flow’ for longer. The benefits of being in this state to an athlete are evident, with the athlete being in an optimal state to train and reap the resulting benefits whilst total focus is devoted to improving performance.

Join Our Community!

Further Reading:

‘Changing Existence into Flow’
Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi

‘On-the-Spot Binaural Beats and Mindfulness Reduces the Effect of Mental Fatigue
Johanne Lundager Axelsen, Ulrich Kirk & Walter Staiano 
Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 2020

‘Meditation and its regulatory role on sleep’
Ravindra P. Nagendra, Nirmala Maruthai & Bindu M. Kutty
Frontiers in Neurology, 2012

‘The Rise of Superman’
Steven Kotler

‘A 3000-mile tour of mental toughness: An autoethnographic exploration of mental toughness intra-individual variability in endurance sport’
K. Bradford Cooper, Mark R. Wilson & Martin I. Jones
International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2018

‘Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density’
Hölzel et al.
Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging, 2011

‘Self-reported mindfulness and cortisol during a Shamatha meditation retreat.’
Jacobs et al.
Health Psychology, 2013