Mindfulness for Olympians and all our children

I have long practised mindfulness and meditation daily; I believe it to be essential to our inner harmony, silencing the inner chatter which can be damaging to spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing.

So I am not surprised to learn that it is being hailed as a factor in Team GB’s success at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, with many athletes using the Headspace app devised by sports psychologists at the English Institute of Sport.

Cyclist Laura Trott, who became the most decorated British female Olympian of all time, said recently: “The first [part] is all to do with breathing, and really ties into the idea of mindfulness – only thinking about what you’re doing in that very moment and not allowing your mind to run away with worries about past events and those in the future.

“By thinking about your breathing, it stops you thinking about anything else. If you push your belly out when you take a breath in, like doing the opposite to what you think you should do, it really helps.”

Children, too, can benefit from learning these techniques. Academics from the University of Cincinnati, in a study published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, looked at a small cohort of children diagnosed with anxiety disorders. The team found that the anxiety level of their patients was significantly reduced after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and the more mindfulness they practised, the less anxious they felt.

One interesting US education resource is MindUP, developed by the Hawn Foundation and the brain child of actress and philanthropist Goldie Hawn. She was inspired by her concerns over rising levels of anxiety and stress among children in the US after 9/11. The programme suggests that children should have two-minute moments of self-reflection and meditation three times daily, with the idea that it will calm them and allow better focus.

Ms Hawn will explain MindUP at a talk in London this month for the Pure Land Foundation at China Exchange, a programme of events designed to enrich lives through creativity, spirituality and self-expression. A keen proponent of meditation, Ms Hawn will also lead the audience in a “brain break”, explaining: “You go inward for a while. It’s important to do that … it helps relax your brain and strengthen your brain.

“It gives great context into behaviour, emotions, reactivity, stress, how to reduce our stress, how to recognise it.”

Ms Hawn has been studying Eastern philosophy for decades and says: “What I’ve learned through my meditation is a sense of equanimity, a sense of all things being equal.”

In this, I agree with her. Mindfulness is an essential tool for achieving inner peace and working towards a state of true contentment.

Bruno Wang