Three Tennis Lessons to Bring to Your Mindfulness Practice

The skills we cultivate by playing tennis can also help us be more mindful—even if you've never before picked up a racket.

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Success in tennis is based on a simple principle: The present is all that matters. It sounds easy, except it’s not. A Harvard study showed that the brain likes to wander 47 percent of the time, and when it does, it doesn’t usually lead to happy thoughts.

Part of the challenge is that the brain is built to scan for danger. It’s the oncoming bus or runaway bear – a necessary survival skill, which we carry with us into everything we do. “We’re in vigilance mode all the time,” says Jeff Bostic, M.D., psychiatrist at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. It’s a hard thing to shut off.

This week the French Open begins. The best players in the world will make inconceivable winners and also dump easy put-aways into the net. The prize money and crowd size might be larger, but for anyone picking up a racquet, the challenge is the same of how to stay “in the moment”. Fundamentally, it’s about quieting your mind. Settling all of the busy thoughts in your head. “You’re getting rid of the noise,” Bostic says. And, just like anything else, it takes practice.

Fundamentally, it’s about quieting your mind. Settling all of…