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How Meditation Won the Super Bowl

Seattle Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll encourages his athletes to meditate.

Days after the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl in a nearly flawless performance, we're left wondering, "How'd they do it?"

For Pete Carroll, head coach of the world's best football team, the answer involves a practice that dates back thousands of years: meditation.

Since 2011, Carroll has encouraged all his athletes to meditate. In fact, he hired a sports psychologist to teach team members mindfulness exercises. One of the objectives of exposing his athletes to meditation has to do with its proven ability to increase happiness and decrease stress. In addition, research is showing the benefits of being "in the zone," which explains a mental state that top athletes reach. A "peak experience" is another way to describe this state.

The zone is how an NBA star can score a series of three-point shots that seem humanly impossible. Or how an Olympic sprinter can break a world record that was previously thought to have been unbeatable. It's a state of consciousnes where one isn't concerned about winning or losing. Instead a person is fully engaged in an activity without mental commentary.

The zone also characterizes a state that long-time meditators reach on a consistent basis. Unlike professional athletes, they don't have to be engaged in any physical activity to reach the so-called zone.

Scientists are showing that whether you're an NFL quarterback or not, the ability to reach a state of relaxation has amazing benefits. A calm mind encourages happiness and decreases stress. It increases our ability to focus and decreases mental chatter.

Although there's no question that the Seattle Seahawks attribute their astonishing win to great leadership, intense training, and pure athletic talent, the team's top players also recognize the power of meditation. Offensive tackle, Russell Okung, said, "Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field fo practice. It's about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where eveyrtying outside of you doesn't matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can't do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them, and change them."

Although most of us will never be pro-athletes, all of us can become pro meditators who experience the same benefits of increased focus, relaxation, and happiness that helped the Seahawks players reach their highest potential. So whether you're an athlete, musician, engineer, or stay-at-home mom, consider how a consistent meditation practice will improve your life.

More from Robert Puff Ph.D.
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