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Mindfulness can be key to athlete's well-being

athletes wide

As the world has watched athletes smash world records at the Rio Olympics, new research from LSE has shown that the secret to their success may lie in gratitude and mindfulness.

According to new research, athletes who are grateful and learn how to be more self-aware by adopting mindfulness techniques may be better equipped to handle the anxiety and psychological rigors of competition, and have better life-satisfaction.

The authors of the study, which was published in Journal of Happiness Studies, were interested in finding out whether gratitude, which is an emotion expressing appreciation for one's life, and mindfulness, which is an awareness of an individual’s mind and external world without mental judgments, could help athletes improve their overall life-satisfaction.

The researchers analysed a group of athletes over a period of time, and found that those who are grateful and mindful displayed higher levels of life-satisfaction. The findings suggest that learning mindfulness techniques, such as focusing in intently on the body and ignoring noise and disruption around them, could improve the athlete’s ability to focus on athletic challenges in a rational and non-judgemental way and make them happier by being grateful for their lives.

Dr Chia-Huei Wu, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management at LSE and one of the authors of the research, said: “One of the goals of mindfulness is to help individuals remove emotion from judgements, focus on the body, and be more objective and rational in different situations. This can be a huge advantage for athletes, because when they are concentrating on their bodies and minds, they aren’t distracted by other things.

"Mindfulness helps athletes in particular to achieve happier lives because when they are grateful it helps broaden the awareness of positivity, and triggers actions that aid the accumulation of additional mental resources that will help them achieve their goals.”

For more information

Peter Carrol, LSE Press Office, telephone: + 44 (0)207 955 6939, email: p.carrol@lse.ac.uk

Notes to editors

Gratitude and athletes’ life satisfaction: the moderating role of mindfulness by Chen, Lung Hung; Wu, Chia-Huei; and Chang, Jen-Ho (2016), was published in the Journal of Happiness Studies.

The study looked at 190 elite athletes who competed at international, national or regional level in Taiwan. The athletes completed a gratitude questionnaire to assess individual gratitude and a survey that assesses their mindfulness disposition. It found that athletes who were more likely to display gratitude and more disposed to mindfulness had higher overall levels of life-satisfaction.   

Image: The 100 m final, Olympics  CC BY 2.0

Posted 19 August 2016