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Wellbeing Wednesday: Mindfulness changing the game at every level

The day to day of being a rugby league player, volunteer or supporter at any level is about to get hectic as junior and senior seasons start kicking off across the state.

For many of us it’s just one part of our busy lives, which can become draining mentally and physically without taking steps to look after our wellbeing.

One of the best ways to do this is to practise mindfulness, which is all about being calm and present.

And it doesn’t need to be something taking up hours of your day. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to do a deep breathing exercise, or daily journaling.

The key to any mindfulness activity is that you are purely paying attention to what’s happening in that given moment.

This could involve a hot bath at the end of the day, a five-minute walk or a short bout of breath-work.

Something I have built into my daily routine is a two-minute cold shower. I find that my mind can only focus on the coldness of the water and not wander to other things during this activity.

Mindfulness has increasingly become part of professional sport, even during matches.

If we look across codes, the dominant All Blacks are said to have been one of the first proponents of mindfulness in elite sport, huddling together after tries before taking three to five deliberate breaths to help them calm down and reset their bodies before the kick-off.

These days you’ll notice a lot of NRL and NRLW teams conduct a deep-breathing exercise as a team after points are scored – by either side – so they can return their focus to the task at hand.

It’s something you can adopt at whatever level of the game you participate, or even when things get tough in your daily life.

I look at players who are on the bench, or who are nervous before they go out on the field - these players could benefit from taking 30 seconds to do some really deliberate breathing to get themselves calm, get their heart rate down so they can go out there and rip in.

It can also have a purpose after mistakes are made. Young kids who make mistakes have a tendency to drop their heads and confidence can suffer, so just being able to take 10 seconds while a scrum is being packed for example can help them get their focus back and move on.

There are so many mental and physical benefits associated with practising mindfulness, including:

  • Reducing stress
  • Feeling happier
  • Increased feeling of focus
  • More energy
  • Boosting our immune system
  • Better social connections

My favourite mindfulness activities for on and off the field

Deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing exercises are a great tool to help you control your stress. Whether it’s before, during or after a game, take three very deliberate breaths, inhaling through your nose then exhaling through your mouth. Try to exhale for longer than you inhale, as this will slow down your heart rate. Former Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons star Meg Ward said after the energy spike from a full-on evening training session, she would often use a deep breathing activity to get to sleep.

Daily journaling

Journaling is a mindfulness tool that helps you process what happens in your day. It is a document of your thoughts and if done at the end of the day in particular, it can have a positive impact on your sleep quality. This year our wellbeing team will be using a journal resource as part of our new GRIP program.

If you’re looking for some help in starting your journey of practising mindfulness, you could try apps such as Smiling Mind, Aura and headspace.

Remember, practice makes perfect.

Acknowledgement of Country

Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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