Can meditation help improve one’s gaming experience? Quick answer: Yes.
In fact, meditation is recommended for athletes across different sports and sporting lifestyles. While a lot of people have the impression that meditation is primarily a spiritual practice, there is nothing otherworldly about its beneficial effects on the mind and body. You don’t have to subscribe to any particular belief for it to work — there’s enough scientific research to support how meditation and other forms of mindfulness training can contribute to overall wellbeing, and are particularly advantageous to people who lead very active and stressful lifestyles.
A study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research examined meditation as a popular form of stress management and concluded that overall, meditation practice leads to decreased physiological markers of stress in a range of populations.
Stress reduction is one of the most cited reasons for recommending meditation to athletes, especially those for engaged in sports where mind-body coordination is highly critical, like e-sports. Through the practice of meditation, gamers of all levels can systematically train their minds and bodies to relax — yet remain alert and focused — during stressful situations.
Likewise, when faced with critical, split-second decisions, people who are anxious and exhausted are likely to lose the mental capacity to respond; they react. Caught in the middle of a grueling game, the ability to stay present and have a calm awareness allows you to diagnose problems, avert obstacles, and make quick but decisive choices that lead to strategic actions.
Meditation has also been found to boost self-confidence because it is conducive to body awareness and an increased sense of self-esteem. Instead of presuming the worst will occur or second-guessing yourself, meditation can help you examine a situation with greater clarity and face your challenges with more optimism. It also trains the mind to visualize or envision the attainment of desired goals and objectives, which in turn increases your likelihood of being successful.
Game on: How to start meditating
If you’ve never tried meditation before, here are a few easy steps to get you started:
- Find a peaceful space where you can be free from distraction and outside noises. Put away your phone and other gadgets. Sit in a comfortable position, either on a chair or on a cushion on the floor. Gently close your eyes for five minutes and try to focus on your breath. You don’t have to breathe a certain way — just make a mental observation of how your belly and chest would rise and fall with every inhale and exhale. You may want to spend a week just focusing on this technique. When you feel you can maintain your attention with minimal effort, you can move on to practicing visualization.
- After taking five minutes to observe your breathing, begin to imagine looking at a river or creek flowing by. Just allow the water to flow past you. Don’t judge anything or comment to yourself. Simply observe the image exactly as it is and accept it. If your mind begins to wander towards external thoughts, consciously bring your attention back to your breath and to the image of water flowing past you.
- With constant practice, the first two steps will begin to come naturally and you will be ready to tap into the emotional states. Start by completing a round of the previous steps to allow your body to relax into the practice. Then imagine your “heart space” (generally, the area in the center of your chest) and visualize breathing into your heart. Envision pure, life-giving air flowing in and out of your heart at a natural pace, expanding your chest and filling it with love. Now think of that air as something positive in your life, something that feels good — someone you love, a happy memory, or whatever brings you joy. Capture those positive feelings you are experiencing and direct them toward yourself. Wish yourself well. Appreciate who you are. Make room for gratitude. Without self-love, there is no self-belief. Only then can you radiate those feelings of peace and positivity towards the world around you.
Using music for meditation
Beginners often find that music can aid in maintaining focus and helping one achieve a “flow state” — a state of consciousness just like in sports or gaming, where your attention is completely engaged and absorbed by the activity at hand. If you think music can help enhance your meditation journey, it would be good to educate yourself on how different types of music can also bring about different results. For instance, with percussion, you are likely to find yourself caught up by the rhythm and the music rather than focusing on your breath and visualization.
Binaural beats are highly recommended by most teachers and practitioners to help induce a meditative state. As your mind goes through the different levels of flow states, your brainwaves also operate on different frequencies. Binaural beats refer to the sensation produced when two low-frequency tones of slightly different frequency are presented to opposite ears at the same time. The difference in the frequency of those two tones is the vibrational speed of the neurons firing in your brain. This trains your brain to “make up” the difference between the two tones and directs it toward the state of mind the music was created for. This is why binaural beats are also described as “auditory illusions.”
Because of its connection with meditation, binaural beats have also been connected to health benefits, such as increasing focus and attention, reducing stress and anxiety, improving memory, promoting creativity and a more positive outlook, even managing pain.
A real game changer
The beauty of meditation is that you can do it anywhere, any time. Once you’ve developed the practice, you can begin to quiet your mind and achieve the many benefits of meditation instantly. While it is usually recommended that you meditate first thing in the morning to set your mindset for the rest of the day, you can choose to meditate at any time that is most conducive to you and your particular lifestyle.
How often should you meditate? Most people find the results to be so favorable that they make meditation part of their daily routine. If you are a newbie, two or three times a week is quite satisfactory. Sitting for 15 to 20 minutes is a good goal to set for your practice, but even if you can only manage five minutes a day, it will still be beneficial.
Combined with a proper diet, adequate sleep, and natural health supplements that provide the right amount of nutrients your body needs every day, meditation could be a real game changer for attaining peak performance in any sport.