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Football Therapy: Meditation

Exploring the connections between life skills and fantasy football.

In addition to being a staff writer for Footballguys by night, I’m a therapist by day. No, I don’t put people on the couch like Sigmund does. I spend most of my day educating and empowering my clients to leave my office with fulfillment and purpose. What I’ve learned, and quite by accident might I add, is that many of the life skills that I teach and practice in therapy are actually applicable in the context of playing fantasy football. In these writings, I will seek to show the reader connections between these life skills and those needed to be a successful fantasy owner. My hope is not only to improve your prowess as an owner, but to give you skills that will help you lead a wonderful life.

What Is Meditation?

When most think of meditation, they think of a Buddhist sitting on the floor, legs crossed, chanting some strange mantra with their eyes closed. While there is certainly some value in those teachings, we will only lightly borrow from them in the course of today’s article. The type of meditation I teach can be done sitting or standing, eyes closed, or eyes open. As defined by Merriam-Webster online, meditation is “to engage in contemplation or reflection.” Essentially, I hope to help you learn to quiet your environment, body, and mind so that you can think optimally.

We live in a society that’s very reactive. In other words, we are expected to process information and respond very quickly. In so doing, we don’t always give ourselves time to think through the issue at hand and make the best possible choice. We don’t often exercise our option to say, “Let me think about that and get back to you.” Taking the time to thoroughly consider things before giving an answer allows us to sort through the extraneous and find the relevant. It makes us much more likely to make a better, more well-informed decision and much less likely to make a rash determination.

Eliminating distractions as much as possible is important in meditation. If the TV is blaring in the background, turn it off. If co-workers are having a loud conversation down the hallway, shut the door if you can. Where possible, schedule a set time to do your thinking. Repurposing your work commute, decompression before bed, or even time in the bathroom as moments to reflect are good strategies if you are strapped for time.

A state of mindfulness-- in other words, to clear the mind and become aware of the present state of things in a way that you may not have been before-- will also be important for one who wishes to meditate. Here are some mindfulness exercises that will help calm the body and clear the mind:

  1. Breathing. Providing ample oxygen to our brain helps to relax our bodies and increase our capacity for thought. Something as simple as one minute of slow inhalation and exhalation can make a dramatic difference.

  1. Observation. Simple observation of surroundings. If standing outside, focus on an aspect of nature, such as a flower. Examine it in great detail, as if you have never seen it before. Describe it vividly in your mind. If you are driving, fix your eyes on the road ahead and pay attention to the ever-changing landscape. Not only is this safe (this is what driving instructors encourage drivers to do anyway!), but it allows you to connect with the presentness of each moment.

  1. Appreciation. Gratitude is a powerful mind-primer. It prepares one to be positively inclined, which is helpful in problem-solving scenarios. In each thing that you observe, think about how that object benefits you or the lives of others. Dwell on how that object is taken for granted. Reflect on how not having that object would change your life and be thankful for it.  I have spoken more on the subject of gratitude in this article if you wish to explore it further.

Now unencumbered, we can begin to gain insight by asking ourselves questions and considering the issue from many angles.

Application for Fantasy

Mindfulness and the subsequent meditation that follows can really be helpful when we are making trades. The following list isn’t exhaustive by any means, but are some things which can be deliberated upon before making a move:

  1. What improvement am I hoping to make to my team by making this trade?

  2. Am I trading because I’m bored or am I trading to address a true need?

  3. Are there less costly alternatives that would have the same or similar results?

  4. What is the risk level of making this deal? Is this risk necessary for me to have a shot at the championship?

  5. Will I be able to live with making this trade if it doesn’t work out for me?

  6. What are my trade partner’s motivations for making this trade?

  7. What is my trade partner’s style and history of communication and move making? Can I leverage these to get the deal done or get a better deal done?

  8. What can I do to ensure my trade partner wants to negotiate or trade with me in the future?

Mindfulness is essential during the course of your season. Rather than being hung up in checking your fantasy score every two minutes, choose to be present in the moment. Watch the contests and soak them in. Enjoy being around friends and family while talking about the game action. Let the fun smack talk and subsequent laughter fly! Allow the problems and the stresses of life temporarily be put away. Realize what a true blessing it is to have this carefree time and these people you care about surrounding you!

Final Thoughts

“Every shrewd person acts with knowledge, but a fool displays his folly.” - Proverbs 13:16

One way to look at meditation is as a kind of intrapsychic technology that's been developed over thousands of years by traditions that know a lot about the mind/body connection. To call what happens 'the placebo effect' is just to give a name to something we don't understand.” - Jon Kabat-Zinn

Realize that as with anything that requires skills, meditation takes time. Your mind will wander. You will be distracted by things outside and inside of yourself. That is ok! Give yourself permission to be imperfect in meditation, for even those who are great at it never achieve perfection. When distraction happens, simply recenter and reconnect. The effort required for meditation is perhaps more intensive than other methods, but the reward is proportionately larger. You will be surprised how some simple time and preparation can bring you so much clarity!