What Is Mental Training?
It’s not complicated, it’s not religious, it’s not spiritual, and anyone can do it. It’s just what we said above: you practice focusing so you can focus better.
The most research is behind “single point focus,” meaning you try your best to spend ten to twenty minutes thinking about just one thing. And just like spending ten to twenty minutes training a body part eventually makes it stronger outside of the workout, intensely training your focus improves your ability to focus throughout the day. It’s a workout for your mind — the part of your body that’s responsible for your performance.This is a fundamental part of your physical training that many people ignore.
We don’t want to overcomplicate it. For most people, it’s shutting your eyes and focusing on the sensation of breath entering and leaving your nostrils. It sounds easy, but the first time anybody tries it, they quickly find their thoughts wandering to what’s for dinner, what they did yesterday, what they’re doing tomorrow, and so on. So it’s simple, but not easy.
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Again, it’s an awful lot like working out. If you’ve never done it before or you haven’t done it in years, it’s uncomfortable, unenjoyable, and it feels like you’re not getting any benefit from it. But if you stick with the discomfort for a few weeks it gets easier, it gets more pleasant, you can do it for longer, and you notice the benefits creeping into your day.
We won’t pretend this article is a complete guide to how to practice focus, but the crux of it was described above: close your eyes and focus on the sensation of your breath entering and leaving your nostrils. Do it for ten to twenty minutes once or twice a day. It will be hard, then it will be easier.
The most important thing is to not get upset with yourself when the mind wanders. (Noticing your mind has wandered is noticing your thoughts, so you could think of it as a victory.) Remember, it’s about non-judgmentally paying attention to the thoughts that come through your head. It can be helpful to think of your mind trying to focus like a baby trying to learn to hold something, like a pen: you don’t yell at the baby for dropping it, you gently encourage her to try again. Using apps like Headspace and Calm can make it a lot easier, because there’s an instructor in your ear helping you stay focused. Look for them on the App Store.
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