In everyday life, we know and understand that if we do not regulate our emotions we can make knee jerk decisions that could have dire consequences. In sport, the ability to regulate one’s emotions is important for two reasons. First, you have to stay in the game both physically and mentally. Second, you want to be able to play well. Emotional regulation is the capacity to manage negative and/or challenging emotions. Simply put, emotional control. No yelling. No fighting. Staying calm and understanding what is happening. As well, regulating one’s emotions is the process by which individuals influence which emotions they have when they have them, and how they experience and express these emotions. Emotion regulation should be regarded as an ability to manage and adaptively respond to negative emotions, rather than a process where distressing emotions are controlled, inhibited or eliminated. With this view, adaptive emotion regulation has been conceptualized as a multidimensional construct involving the following:
(a) awareness, understanding, and acceptance of emotions;
(b) ability to engage in goal-directed behaviors, and inhibit impulsive behaviors, when experiencing negative emotions;
(c) flexible use of situationally-appropriate strategies to modulate the intensity and/or duration of emotional responses, rather than to eliminate emotions entirely; and
(d) willingness to experience negative emotions as part of pursuing meaningful activities in life.
Emotional regulation is known as Mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation can teach athletes to accept their thoughts and emotions without being judgmental. This manner of thought acceptance may help athletes to be better prepared for a match and thereby improve their performance. Mindfulness Meditation techniques may lead to heightened self-awareness, a reduction in the frequency of negative thoughts, and improved ability to let go of negative thoughts. In addition to heightened self-awareness and reduction of negative thoughts, mindfulness practices may also help athletes identify patterns of regular responses to external cues and awareness and therefore help athletes become better equipped to choose the appropriate response to athletic demands. Moreover, in addition to enhancing athletic performance, practicing the acceptance and awareness of the present moment has been shown to bring athletes greater enjoyment of their sports as well.
Mindfulness is the awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmental to the unfolding of experience moment by moment. By practicing mindfulness meditation, one trains one’s mind to be less irritable and more secure. Furthermore, mindfulness is the ability to become aware of each moment, to notice each thought as it comes to mind, and to not give one thought more value than another. In other words, the goal of mindfulness training is to become nonjudgmental about one’s thoughts.