Month: January 2022

Training Considerations for Soccer (Football) Players

Training Considerations for Soccer (Football) Players

Soccer (or football) is widely accepted as one of the most popular sports in the world.

Despite this, many amateur athletes and coaches get it wrong when it comes to training and preparation.

Long gone are the days of players running as far as possible for as long as possible to get fit. However, often this approach at an amateur level is implemented still, neglecting other important training elements for the game.

The misconception around amateur soccer players is that training fundamentals such as strength or power development aren’t necessary for their sport – which couldn’t be further from the truth!

Let’s dive into the forgotten training principles of the sport and listen to some important advice from experts at the top on how to take your game to the next level!

TRAINING CONSIDERATIONS FOR SOCCER PLAYERS:

1. Strength and Power

That’s right – hit the weights room.

Strength training within a soccer regime has various benefits on performance for players.

It’s one fundamental of training easily ignored by players and coaches, but training strength and power is an important element of the sport.

Go through your head and think of the basic movements performed during a game – kicking, sprinting, tackling and jumping. Most are repeated power movements. What is power? Well strength forms the basis for power and speed which is crucial to play the sport effectively.

2. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

As soccer is an intermittent sport with repeated bouts of high-intensity activity, it’s fitting to incorporate HIIT training.

Evidence shows that the effects of high-intensity interval training benefit soccer players, particularly among younger players, and helps with endurance and performance throughout the game. HIIT training improves both aerobic and anaerobic capacity and is reported to show greater improvements compared with continuous training methods.

So, does HIIT help your endurance?

A major difference in players at an amateur level is usually how long they can run or maintain their level of stamina for.

Soccer is a game of endurance, with elite players needing to perform at their best for the entire duration of the game. Highly anaerobic, soccer is not about how long you can run for, it’s about the intensity you can put in – the sport demands you to be very active. You are constantly running up and down the field, defending against a player, and moving into space to receive and make passes. You are rarely just jogging around the field.

Using interval training will help your soccer skills significantly. This is when you alternate between activity levels throughout an exercise, giving your heart rate a chance to recover periodically. The best interval training actually alternates between very low energy exercise (low intensity, a slow jog) and bursts of high energy exercise.

This helps your muscles train and condition without straining them unnecessarily, and also helps push your physical capacity to improve your strength or speed without excessive wear and tear.

3. Speed and agility

A significant determinant of success and a key component of the sport is agility. The ability to perform fast bursts of speed and quick changes of direction often separate great players from average ones.

Soccer isn’t linear; it constantly changes from one part of the field to another. You are sprinting, changing direction, stopping and starting. It’s never in a straight line. Training should represent how you play.

WE SPOKE TO THE EXPERTS

Australian national teams rely on the expertise of world leading sports science and sports medicine staff to overcome some of the unique and often extreme challenges they face when competing globally.

We had the opportunity to talk with Accredited Sports Scientists, Fabian Ehrmann and Andrew Clark of Football Australia.

Fabian and Andrew give insight to the training and preparation of players at national level, but also provide advice for amateurs looking to excel their game.

Why should a soccer player strength train? (power, speed, etc.)

Football at the elite level is incredibly competitive and it’s not possible anymore to compete without being an outstanding and well-rounded athlete. Playing football, like many field-based team sports, requires high levels of endurance, speed, strength and agility, which, when combined, act as the foundation for the technical and tactical work required on the pitch.

We know from using tracking technology that physical demands on professional players are increasing from year to year and we also know that individual physical qualities can make a significant difference to a team’s success – whether it’s a striker using his speed to get onto the end of a through ball and score, a defender using his strength to outmuscle strikers at set pieces, or a midfielder using his endurance to cover every blade of grass on the pitch in the last minute of a match.

All this means that elite footballers have to work very hard on developing physical qualities, be it in team training sessions or in supplementary sessions on the pitch or in the gym.

The good news for junior players and amateur players is that what is true for professionals, usually holds true for them as well. Physical qualities along with technical and mental qualities can make a real difference at any level of the game and it just becomes a matter of how we can optimise the training time available to us to ensure all qualities are trained adequately.

Do different soccer playing positions require different physical attributes and how do you account for that in training?

Match demands on players are vastly different depending on where they play on the pitch. Wide players tend to cover a lot of ground and do much more high speed running than central players. Central midfielders often cover the most distance but do so at a steadier pace, while central defenders and strikers tend to run the least but perform more explosive actions (accelerations and decelerations) than their midfield counterparts.

It’s not just playing position that determines how much and what type of running a player needs to do though; playing style and tactical instructions, as well as external factors like heat and humidity, also play a role and must be factored in when preparing players for matches.

One of the most important principles we have to adhere to when planning training for the team or individual players is specificity and this means, amongst other things, that we need to adjust our training to the type of work required of a player in a match. The easiest way to achieve this is by using game variations in training that mimic the demands of the game. This could be large-sided games (8 v 8s up to 11 v 11s) or small sided games (3 v 3s or 4 v 4s). These game forms allow us to overload certain physical components while also training technical and tactical aspects, thereby maximising training time. In professional football, we can use GPS technology to ensure that the training intensity during these drills is at the desired level for us to achieve our targeted outcomes.

At grassroots level, training intensity is a little harder to track (although Session RPE is an excellent and inexpensive way of doing this), but can be manipulated in exactly the same way; changing pitch size (small training areas generally mean more explosive actions, while large areas mean more high speed running and higher top speeds), introducing new rules (how many touches are players allowed to take, extra players on the attacking/defensive team, etc.), and making sure there are plenty of balls in case one is kicked away are easy ways of influencing intensity.

What about training for goalkeepers?

Conditioning for goalkeepers is of course completely different to that of field players. Goalkeepers are usually taller and heavier than their counterparts on the field, as they don’t have the same endurance demands, but they need to be explosive and able to perform these explosive efforts repeatedly if required. They also need extremely good reaction times, which must be worked on in specialised goalkeeping sessions or drills.

How important is HIIT training and what type of HIIT training exercises can soccer players perform?

High-intensity interval training is a fantastic tool for footballers to work on in off-season fitness, to get back to fitness levels following injury or simply top up their regular team training. It trains both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and it mimics match demands really well, as football is an intermittent sport, which means there is a lot of low-intensity activity interspersed by high-intensity efforts like sprints, tackles or jumps.

We often use “15/15s” in our training, so 15 seconds of intense running followed by 15 seconds of rest and we do this for a few sets of several minutes. A good starting point for junior and amateur players is probably 2 sets of 4 minutes with 2 minutes of rest in between (so 8 x 15 second runs starting every half a minute, 2 minutes rest, then go again) before working up to 5 or 6 minutes and eventually adding a third set. The distance covered in those 15 seconds depends on the fitness levels of the player. In one straight line it can be anywhere between 75 and 90 metres (again, it’s probably good to start on the lower end before working up to the high end). When adding a change of direction, a rule of thumb is to halve that distance and take 5 metres off to allow for the deceleration and acceleration phase.

Footballers don’t often run in straight lines for extended periods, so manipulating work to rest times, adding changes of direction (try 10 seconds of intense 20 metre shuttles with 20 seconds rest) and combining technical components of the game with high-intensity interval training methodology, are great ways of achieving training goals and keeping individual sessions interesting.

Our creative thinking is constantly challenged when designing game specific physical overload sessions that combine HIIT training principles with technical and tactical components of the game.

Why should an amateur soccer player implement speed & agility training and what are some examples of agility drills?

The ability to run fast and change direction at speed, with and without the ball, is decisive in football, especially to create goal-scoring opportunities in the attacking third. Importantly, like in other team sports, it’s not just important how fast a player can run or turn, but how well he or she can anticipate and react to external cues, like which way is the opponent moving or where will the ball go next. This means for us it is important to incorporate decision making and reactiveness into our speed and agility work.

As an example, a simple progression of agility drills could be a square with different coloured markers, approximately 10 metres apart, and a coach asking the players to run around any combination of colours as quickly as they can (one by one, not all together, and one effort shouldn’t last more than about 7 seconds). The players’ runs are hereby pre-planned, and the focus lies on optimising power and running mechanics. A simple progression would be the coach not calling out the next colour until the player has nearly reached the marker.

The player now can’t pre-plan his or her movements and is forced to be alert and react quickly. A final progression could be a second player starting two metres behind the first player and, on his own device, running towards any marker as fast as he or she can. The first player anticipates and reacts to this run by chasing after player 2, much like they would in a match.

As with all drills we do, we want to make them as interesting and fun as we possibly can. Setting up several squares so players can be competitive and race against each other is a good way of doing this, as is including a ball, for example by allowing the race “winner” a shot at goal while the “loser” tries to stop them.

What should a typical training week look like for an Australian player?

No matter what level or age, it is important to keep three main physical aims in mind when planning a training week. The first aim is to recover fully from the previous match, the second aim is to load – working on maintaining or elevating fitness levels – and the third aim is to taper for the upcoming match – to ensure players are fresh and ready play. Most teams play once per week, either on Saturdays or Sundays, and train twice or three times per week. This gives them plenty of time to recover, load and taper. If teams play two matches in a week, the second match replaces the loading period and recovery becomes a bigger focus.

Weekly training schedule for soccer players.

If we use a team that plays every Saturday as an example, they should focus on recovery on the Sunday and Monday (a little bit more or less depending on the age and the fitness levels of the players). Recovery doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing (although good sleep is essential), instead this period is great for doing light aerobic activities, like jogging, cycling or swimming, and working on football technique with low-intensity dribbling and passing drills.

On Tuesday and Wednesday the focus should shift to ensuring players work on their fitness levels. Teams can play large-sided games one week and small sided games the following week to ensure they overload all aspects of football fitness. Individual players can top up their training with high-intensity intervals and also work on strengthening their muscles (Football Australia’s FUNdamentals and Perform+ programs are excellent starting points for this).

Thursday and Friday should see a decline in training load again as players prepare for the match ahead. Besides tactical training, this period is great for doing speed and agility drills as described above. That should sharpen the players up and ensure they are ready to perform at their best on the weekend.

FOOTBALL AUSTRALIA’S TRAINING AND HEALTH HUB:

For information on how to train and recover like a professional footballer – including tips and tricks around football nutrition – check out Football Australia’s Training and Health Hub.

Training for soccer

Speak with a professional

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Written by Exercise Right. We have partnered with Nike Australia Pty Ltd for this article series. The views expressed in this article, unless otherwise cited, are exclusively those of the author, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA). ESSA is a professional organisation committed to establishing, promoting and defending the career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sports science practitioners.

Nike had no role in the collection, analysis, or interpretation of data or research or the writing of this article.

Bibliotherapy: Self-Help Books Can Really Improve Your Mental Health

bibliotherapy


While people may feel embarrassed getting caught in the “self help” section of a library or book store, the truth is there are a lot of valuable books out there that can make a real difference.


Bibliotherapy is the practice of reading self-help books to change your habits and improve your mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

One of the most popular self-help books to date is the classic Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy published by David D. Burns in 1980, which is known for popularizing many early techniques in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.

According to one study published in the British Journal of General Practice (which analyzed 11 different experiments), participants who read CBT-based books such as Feeling Good showed a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as an increase in overall quality of life.

Psychologists suggest that assigned readings can be a useful low-cost supplementary treatment in addition to therapy or medication for those diagnosed with depression or anxiety disorders.

The best self-help books often come with worksheets and exercises so people can take what they learn and apply it in a practical way. Following through with these exercises is an important factor when getting the most out of these books.

In the study mentioned above, researchers identified several books that are often recommended by professionals, including:

  • Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns
  • Managing Anxiety and Depression by Nicholas Holdsworth
  • Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger
  • Overcoming Depression and Low Mood: A Five Areas Approach by Chris Williams

Most of these have similar content – cognitive-behavioral therapy techniques designed to treat depression and anxiety – they are just presented in different ways. The only one I’ve read is Feeling Good, which I definitely recommend checking out.

While most effective self-help books seem to focus on CBT, there are definitely other options as well. One pilot study compared a CBT self-help book to the book Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression by Miriam Akhtar and found similar results for both approaches.

Another preliminary study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction workbook significant decreased measures of depression, anxiety, and stress, as well as a pilot study that found positive results with the book Worry Less, Live More: The Mindful Way through Anxiety by Susan M. Orsillo.

There’s still a lot more research to be done when it comes to bibliotherapy, but it definitely has promise.

Of course you can’t do a study on every single self-help book that comes out, but in general ones that are science-based, action-oriented, and recommended by experts are good places to start.

As someone who has been engaged in self-help for over a decade, I’ve easily read over 100 self-help books total. Admittedly, not all of them are that good, but I certainly believe in the power of bibliotherapy in my own life.

Much of the writings on this site are based on education through books. For example, over the past few years I’ve written articles based on the books Flow, The Body Keeps The Score, Crucial Conversations, I’m OK – You’re OK, Games People Play, Attached, Supernormal Stimuli, and The Power of Meaning. With each of these books, I’ve taken away valuable information that I’ve applied to my daily life.

About 50% of everything I know has been through reading – including books, articles, and studies – and the other half is through experience and practice. I consider educational books and scientific studies to be the very foundation of the information pyramid (it’s certainly better than getting all your knowledge through social media and memes).

It’s important to talk to mental health professionals when you really need them, but I’ve always been someone who was more likely to end up in a library than a therapist’s office.

That’s just a part of my independent personality, but it’s also a weakness. In general, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it – sometimes a meaningful conversation with a therapist or coach is worth more than a hundred books.

Bibliotherapy shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for professional help, it’s just one tool of many to help us change and grow.

While people may feel embarrassed getting caught in the “self help” section of a library or book store, the truth is there are a lot of valuable books out there that can make a real difference. The key is finding the right books for you.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that there are some people that seem to become addicted to reading a lot of self-help books – but never applying them or making any real-world changes.

I’ve definitely been an information junkie in the past, jumping from book to book but not taking the time to absorb what I read and find a way to integrate it into my life. It’s important to remind yourself that there’s always a balance between learning and action.

The person that reads one self-help book and applies it is further than the person who reads a hundred self-help books but never changes anything or tries anything new.

One guideline to follow: For every self-help book you read, make sure you apply at least ONE thing from it into your daily life.

Or at least try one thing, even if it ends up not working out. You have to experiment sometimes before you find what really works for you personally.

Different advice works for different people. A self-help book that completely changed one person’s life may not do anything for you.

Ultimately, no matter what type of self-help book you read, take what works and leave what doesn’t work.


Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:


The post Bibliotherapy: Self-Help Books Can Really Improve Your Mental Health appeared first on The Emotion Machine.

My 5 Unique Solutions to Mindfulness Challenges

Roy T. Bennet once said, “When things do not go your way, remember that every challenge— every adversity — contains within it seeds of opportunity and growth.” 

And that has been the case with my mindfulness journey.  

By now, you’ve probably heard how beneficial mindfulness can be in our lives. The benefits include better emotional regulation, reduced stress, anxiety, a boost in cognitive performance, and improved physical health, to name a few. 

I have always wanted to live a happy, healthy, and peaceful life and I found mindfulness to be a good fit for me to achieve these 3 things in my life. I have worked with it for several years now and I have seen some improvements in various areas of my life because of it. However, I have also been faced with several challenges while trying to make it work.

The following is an account of my mindfulness journey to date: my personal experiences with it, the challenges I’ve met along the way, and the discoveries as well as unique solutions that have helped me overcome the hurdles and become more mindful. 

My Mindfulness Journey in Brief 

I remember very well when I got into mindfulness; it seems like it was yesterday. I desired to be more in control of my life. I used to be very shy, introverted, short-tempered, and very serious with life and I craved to be more social, understanding, and caring even when I was angry, and more open to life. 

The anger issue was the main reason I wanted to be more mindful. I had read somewhere that mindfulness has the ability to help create mental space that would allow me better react to emotion-provoking situations and I wanted to have that so bad. 

When I chose to begin mindfulness, my first mindfulness practice was mindfulness meditation. Since it helps give a taste of mindfulness, have a feel of what it is like to be mindful, and helps build the momentum of spilling over mindfulness into my daily activities. 

I began meditating for 5 minutes and then increased the duration of my meditation sessions as I felt more comfortable with the practice. Soon enough I was meditating for 30 minutes and would feel deeply moved by the practice. 

Eventually, in my quest to be more mindful throughout the day, I decided I would take up other mindfulness practices including mindful eating, mindful speaking and listening, mindful walking, and even mindful working so that I would have more moments of mindfulness in my typical day. 

I took each of the practices one at a time and slowly but surely made them work in my life. And at the moment, I feel I have made fairly good progress with them and I can feel the effects of the improvements in my life even I grow more mindful every year. 

However, the journey has not been as smooth as you may think. There have been many challenges along the way. From the time I was only doing mindfulness meditation to when I began incorporating other mindfulness practices into my routine, problems sprung up left, right, and center and really challenged me. 

Here are the main obstacles I had a while back as I was doing my best to immerse myself deeply into mindfulness. 

The Major Setbacks in My Mindfulness Journey 

1. Constant Mind-wandering

This is a common occurrence during meditation. I would often find myself having drifted off to other thoughts without realizing it. I would begin by focusing and being attentive to the progress of my meditation session and what I needed to do, and soon enough I would discover that I entertained thoughts about my work, my family, and other distracting thoughts, and I had been completely diverted. The constant mental chatter keeps on happening and I still lose focus once in a while during my sessions to date. 

2. Difficulty with remaining mindful over a long period when talking to people

When having conversations, I would start as being mindful, that is being mindful of myself as I listen to other people talk and when I was talking. I would be aware of my emotions and thoughts and how they changed, and I felt generally in control of myself. I would think before I speak, have good control of my reactions if the conversation was emotionally provoking and I would feel at peace. Deep peace from within that wouldn’t be disturbed.

However, as time went by, I would get lost in the conversation, my emotions would get the best of me and thoughts would race through my mind and I would speak them out without taking time to consider the effect they would have on other people. In the end, I would feel guilty, selfish and there would even be self-loathing afterward. 

3. Feeling overwhelmed by mindfulness and lacking mental energy to keep at it

At times, I would meditate and feel good about mindfulness in the morning. I would even make the intention of remaining mindful throughout the day and would go ahead to try and make it happen. However, around midday or late evenings, I would start feeling mindfulness has taken the best of me and was starting to weigh me down. Instead of the good control of life I felt it gave me, I would feel like it was mentally stressful and it made me feel too alert in a negative way that made me lose my creative touch and composure. 

4. Feeling like I had multiple personalities based on how mindful I was

As I progressed with my mindfulness journey, I would notice that there were times I was deeply mindful of my inner and outer world. When I talked to people, I conversed well and it felt right. I was aware of my thoughts and feeling even sensations and I felt in synchrony with the universe. There were also times when I felt a lesser version of that, and there were times I didn’t feel any of that. I was doing the same throughout but the experiences were different. And I would notice that when things felt just right my personality was really good, and when I experienced the lesser version of that things were slightly better. And when I didn’t feel anything, I would be “all over the place” with my thoughts, actions, and emotions. This felt like I was different people at different times and I wasn’t happy about it. 

5. Becoming technical with mindfulness and seeing it as a tedious task

I have always been a bit busy with my work and family but I still wanted to make mindfulness part of my life. This meant practicing it despite my busy schedule and making time through my busy periods to remain mindful as I went on with my daily activities. However, it would get to a point where remembering to be mindful and redirecting my attention to my inner and outer environment felt too much of a task. I was already having demanding things on my plate and mindfulness was also stretching me mentally and emotionally, and I would feel like it was a tedious task. 

6. Feeling like I’m being rude, selfish and inconsiderate of others because of mindfulness effects

The main aim of me doing mindfulness was to take charge of my life and be at peace by becoming more responsible with my words and actions. Initially, I was a thoughtless talker, quick to react but also very jovial and friendly with the people I was free with. However, as I kept practicing mindfulness and created mental space that made me think before I spoke and took action or even react, I also became more composed, less reactive in a good and bad way.

Instead of laughing my heart out at my friends’ jokes, I would smile or laugh briefly and this made me come across as rude and inconsiderate of the people I loved. They had not done anything to me but the change in my behavior made them question our friendship and they would often ask me about it. “Are you okay?”, “Is there something we did to you that you’re not telling us?” 

My 5 Unique Solutions to Mindfulness Challenges 

Every time I come to a mindfulness challenge, I take my time in the evening before I sleep and think about it in-depth, determining why I think it is happening and how I can solve it. I normally have a period of an hour before I sleep that I have dedicated to thinking about the problems in my life and coming up with proper and permanent solutions. 

In the case of the mindfulness challenges I’ve mentioned, I not only thought deeply about them but also talked to other mindfulness practitioners and consulted a few meditation teachers so that I would get accurate solutions that would solve the problem completely. And here are the solutions I got which have been quite rewarding over the years and have minimized the challenges greatly. 

Solution #1. Visualization 

Visualization solves the two problems of feeling like you are having different personalities and not being able to remain mindful for long as you are talking to people. See, the reason why we behave differently when are going through the different levels of mindfulness is that we have allowed the journey and progress to influence our entire lives. And that is what we should do. However, we should top that up with our personal intentions and effort of becoming the kind of people we desire to be. This helps to regulate our personality and inclines us more towards what we want to be in the long term. 

A good example of applying the visualization concept is by sitting down and taking time to visualize the kind of person you would want to become, the kind of personality you would want to have, and the attributes you would want to be known for. Then you go a step further and visualize different scenarios where you are applying those attributes and people are reacting the way you would expect them. 

Imagine a scenario where you are with your friends and you have become grounded in your desired personality and you are talking and acting in accordance to that personality naturally and seamlessly. After that, set the intentions to do just that when you are done with the visualization practice and put in the effort of making it happen in your life consistently. 

Apply the same idea and visualize yourself talking to people while being mindful for long periods naturally and easily, then set the intentions to do that going forward and actually do it. 

Solution #2. Planning Your Mindful Day Ahead  

Before I leave for work or to handle the day’s activities, I first plan my day. It takes about 5 minutes or less and it has a huge positive impact on my day and ensures I’m not feeling overwhelmed by mindfulness at any time. It also helped me make a smooth transition from being the person who expresses their emotions strongly to a quiet, composed but still friendly person to my friends and family. 

I normally plan my day right when I’m about to open the door and get out of the house. I ask myself what I’m going to do first, what I need in terms of resources to complete the first task as well as the others, and then what I need to remember in terms of personality and the person I am working on becoming and the things I need to do and when I need to do them to keep going with this self-transformation journey. 

Suppose I’ll be going to the mall and then meet up with my friends later for a cup of coffee and to catch up, I normally say to myself, I’m going to the mall to buy this product, which costs this much and here’s the money for it. And while I’m there I should be quiet, confident, composed, and aware.  

Then I’ll go to meet my friends to catch up and I’ll only need to be aware and composed and friendly in a well-mannered way but still make my usual jokes but moderately. And if I wander away and get lost in the conversation and my level of mindfulness goes down and I notice it, I will redirect my attention to my inner and outer environment and then keep going. 

And since I know I’ll have many moments of mind wandering, I’ll check up on myself immediately after I speak, or when I’m about to give my views, to ensure I’m still aware of myself. 

And when I leave the house, I’m mentally prepared since I have planned myself so applying what I’ve planned in the real world becomes easy and fairly smooth for me. 

For making sure I don’t come across as rude to my friends, I decided to keep doing what I was doing while with them and be overly expressive as I was, but slowly as we progressed with our conversations, I would be composed for a brief moment and then continue being expressive. And as I injected moments of composure while I still maintained my usual personality, they slowly got used to it.

Solution #3. Constant Remembrance 

When it comes to constant remembrance, there are 3 ways to go about it. First, it refers to complementing the planning your mindful day ahead solution. When I make plans about my day especially the ones that focus on me remaining mindful and having those moments where I check in with myself to see if I’m mindful, constant remembrance helps to keep me in the right direction. 

It is one thing to plan something and another to make it work, and constant remembrance is what helps make it work. By setting the intentions to remember constantly check in with yourself, you become more aware of the fact that you need to remember to actually do that, and soon enough it helps you be more mindful when you have forgotten about it. 

Second, when I feel like mindfulness is a tedious task that is only making my day hard, I constantly remember why I chose to get into mindfulness in the first place and it helps me remember my purpose. With the purpose in mind, I can now feel the hectic and technical aspect of mindfulness that was making me feel exhausted with it disappear and I re-align myself with the purpose and it becomes more fulfilling. 

Third, constant remembrance of the fact that the nature of the mind is to wander and that mind-wandering is going to happen every so often helps me to be easy with myself and gently redirect my attention to my practice when my mind drifts off. 

Solution #4. Mindful Observation  

Mindful observation of how I naturally do things has given me insight into where I am in my journey towards self-transformation and it also gives the motivation and opportunity to put in more effort into the needing areas so that I make even more progress and achieve what I have my eyes on sooner. 

For me, mindful observation is about being mindful and observing your life without interfering with it. I observe how I think and feel about everything I’m involved in without making judgments or opinions about them. This includes how I speak and act when I’m alone versus when I’m around people, how I talk and behave when I’m in my high moods versus when something is disturbing me, and all other aspects of my life. 

By being aware, I naturally find myself wanting to do things maturely and properly regardless of how I’m feeling. On top of that, it helps me know where specifically to direct my efforts so that I make the kind of change I want to happen in my life and succeed. 

Solution #5. Mirroring 

Mirroring is a technique where you mirror what you admire and desire to be and live as if you’ve already achieved it all. I have found that mirroring helps “get you there” mentally, emotionally, and even physically. By this, I mean that if you create the picture of the person you want to be with articulate details through the visualization method that I mentioned in solution #1 and then live as though you are that person, you will notice a huge improvement in the way you think, act and speak. 

Applying that concept in mindfulness, if you live as though you are completely mindful and like you have mastered the quality of mindfulness and have gotten comfortable with it, you will notice that it is easy to get past your barriers with it. 

I personally took one evening and visualized in great detail, how I would like to be when I’ve increased my level of mindfulness and had made it my second nature. I visualized how I would be living my life alone, how I would be interacting with people, how I would be going about the challenges I “once used” to have trouble with as a more experienced person and this gave me the confidence to get through the barriers I face and I also became more motivated to keep going with mindfulness. 

Repeating this mirroring approach regularly as you prepare to begin your day and any time you are faced with a mindfulness-related problem can help you find reliable solutions and help you enjoy mindfulness and have an easier time with it. 

Conclusion  

And those are the 5 rewarding solutions that have helped me go a long way in my mindfulness journey. 

I hope they will help you in one way or the other in your mindfulness journey too and will also set the pace for you to come up with your unique solutions too for your unique mindfulness challenges. 

One more thing to note is that, while these solutions are beneficial and solve the problems I have discussed, implementing them and getting good results requires discipline, consistency, patience, dedication, and personal effort. By being committed to the goal of improving your level of mindfulness, doing all you can to make it happen, and not giving up or doubting yourself, you’re surely going to get there. 

Which of the 5 solutions do you feel can help solve a problem you have in your mindfulness journey at the moment? Please let me know in the comments.  

mindfulness challenges

The Mask of Hypocrisy

BY SOFO ARCHON

hypocricy

I have a basic principle in life: to speak the truth, and embody the truth that I’m speaking. And yet, sometimes I’m called a hypocrite.

When I write about ending the ongoing pillage of the Earth, some people call me a hypocrite because I use a smartphone and a computer. When I write about ending world hunger, some people call me a hypocrite because I don’t donate most of my money and possessions to the poor. When I write about ending racism or sexism, some people call me a hypocrite because I do it from the position of a privileged white male.

Such claims don’t affect me, for I know in my heart that I want to see the end of all the above, and that I do what I feel is right for helping to achieve that. But I find a serious problem with the dismissing attitude behind those claims, which is that it’s not only discouraging social change, but it’s also myopic in its understanding of the nature, complexity and depth of the crises that we as a civilization are faced with.

As I’ve written time and time again, we’re all immersed in a sick culture with toxic values, institutions and systems. And, whether we admit it or not, everyone is (more or less) bound to this culture, and hence to its sickness. For example, in this culture, to some extent we all need to be competitive and destructive. Would you call someone a hypocrite for wanting peace and unity, yet who’s participating in our global economy, which is inherently anti-social? Would you call someone a hypocrite for being against environmental pollution, yet who’s commuting to his working place nearly every day using an automobile? Lastly, would you call someone a hypocrite for advocating against sexism and racism, yet who’s working in a sweatshop run by a corporation which profits from the mass exploitation of women and people of color?

Back in 2012, I was in search of a job, and after much effort, the only job I could land was that of a video editor for a corporate TV channel. Part of my job was to edit commercials, as well as videos that would play in the news. I hated that job, for I despised both manipulative advertising and the propaganda machine that the mainstream TV is. Yet, I had to somehow earn a living, and couldn’t find a better alternative at the time. Many of my colleagues were in a similar situation. Does that mean we were hypocrites, who secretly wanted to support corporate television?

If the above are examples of hypocrisy, then every activist, social critic or anti-establishment individual is a hypocrite, simply because of being those things! But when the word “hypocrite” is used in this manner, its meaning becomes distorted, muddening the waters of communication. To clear them, it would be helpful to remind ourselves of its meaning, as well as its origin. According to Merriam-Webster,

“The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player.” The Greek word itself is a compound noun: it’s made up of two Greek words that literally translate as “an interpreter from underneath.” That bizarre compound makes more sense when you know that the actors in ancient Greek theater wore large masks to mark which character they were playing, and so they interpreted the story from underneath their masks.

The Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not. This sense was taken into medieval French and then into English, where it showed up with its earlier spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others. (Hypocrite gained its initial h- by the 16th century.)”

A hypocrite, therefore, is someone phoney, someone who’s wearing a personality mask to show off a fake image of themselves. And there are certainly plenty of people among us who act like that. In fact, I’d argue that we all act hypocritically at times (myself included, despite my basic life principle of life that I mentioned in the first paragraph of this article), for occasionally we all hide ourselves under the veil of pretence.

If we want to live in an open, honest and high-trust society, it’s important to point hypocrisy out as soon as we detect it — especially when it comes from those sitting in positions of political power — for openness, honesty and trust never go hand-in-hand with lying and deception. Before doing so, however, we need to be extra careful to discern hypocritical behavior from non-hypocritical one. Otherwise, we’d be making the mistake of blaming honest people for being dishonest. If, let’s say, we call someone a hypocrite merely for engaging in the toxic system/society/culture that they want to change (as in the examples I gave above), this would not only be a mischaracterization of who they are (for they have to engage in it, at least in part), but also counterproductive to their efforts. Such people need social acceptance, encouragement and support to be effective agents of change, not to feel blamed and shamed for not being able to do better.

Once we’ve detected someone’s hypocritical behavior and feel the urge to point it out to them or others, it’s important to be clear about what our intentions are. Do they come from a place of love and compassion, or judgment and blame? People who’re chronic hypocrites are for the most part deeply hurt individuals who’ve learned to navigate through life by constant use of lies and deception. Hypocrisy is an emotional defense mechanism they have adopted to protect themselves from experiencing further pain. Think of the times you’ve been dishonest or pretentious in your life. I bet in most cases you felt afraid, right? Behind our hypocrisy usually lies a great fear: the fear of vulnerability. When we open ourselves up to others and let them see our true colors, we become vulnerable, for we expose our weaknesses (along with our strengths), which others might ridicule, condemn or use against us. If, therefore, we want to see people being more honest, we need to create a space of trust, love and care — a space that makes them feel embraced with their flaws and imperfections, even while we’re pointing out their hypocrisy. Otherwise, we run the risk of achieving the opposite of what we want: causing more fear within them, and thus intensifying their emotional need to stay hidden behind the mask of hypocrisy.

Now, you might argue that not everyone pretends out of fear; there are some people who do so in order to gain social status, financial wealth, political dominance and so on, and who therefore deserve neither our love nor our compassion. Rather, they deserve our hate and contempt. They are people who should be shamed and punished! A popular example of such people is politicians (when you hear of the word hypocrite, what comes first to your mind? To mine, it’s always politicians). In this case, I’d say that politicians pretend mainly out of fear too: the fear of being small, insignificant, insecure, powerless. For why else would they strive to gain so much fame, money and power? It’s because of a dreadening emotional void that they are trying to fill, not realizing that they are using the wrong means. (Of course, not every politician has such aims — there are a few ones who don’t, and prioritize the well-being of the world over the satisfaction of their ego, but that’s not the general case.)

To better understand hypocrisy, we also need to look into the social conditions that give rise to it. Otherwise, we might try to deal with it on a symptoms-level, without addressing its root causes. For instance, we might fight against politicians in order to remove them from their positions of power, only to soon see others ones taking their place. What if the entire political game as we know today is based on hypocrisy? What if it incentivizes hypocrisy and rewards those who are best at being hypocrites? If that’s the case (which is, for obvious reasons that I won’t bother mentioning), then hypocritical politicians are just a natural outgrowth of a hypocritical political system. The same logic can be applied to all the other systems and institutions that exist in our society. Take the economic system, for example, wherein the businesses that are better at deception (through advertising and other means) earn the highest profits. Or take the school system, where students are coerced to act in certain ways in order to be rewarded — and not punished — by grades.

Hell, our entire civilization is built on a hypocrisy — the hypocrisy of so-called progress. We see ourselves as the masters of nature, who, through technology and culture, have managed to rise above and beyond the rest of life. We think of ourselves as the most benign and intelligent species on Earth (we’ve even named ourselves, Homo Sapiens, the wise man!), yet no other species is nearly as competitive, acquisitive, and violent as ourselves. But we don’t want to hear this truth, lest it disturbs our comforting illusions. So, we suppress it deep within the unconscious of our collective psyche. As a result, we raise our children in the hypocrisy we call normalcy, thus perpetuating our belief in our superiority.

To some extent, we were all conditioned as children to behave in certain ways in order to be considered “good” boys and girls, to be accepted and validated by our culture, to become “civilized.” Which brings me to the last point that I want to make: Often, we’re too quick to point fingers at the hypocrites around us, to blame them, to accuse them, to judge them, and perhaps the reason for doing so is to distract ourselves from our own hypocrisy that we are not willing to admit. As it’s usually the case, instead of facing our inner demons, we project them on other people, who then become our external enemies. That makes us feel relieved, at least temporarily, for it pulls our attention away from the “enemy” within.

The hypocrisy that we experience in the outside world is nothing but the expression and reflection of the collective hypocrisy we’re immersed in. Therefore, to effectively deal with it, we need to look inside us and heal it from its very source. At the same time, we need to create space for others to heal too, as well as to redesign our social structures so that they don’t systemically produce hypocrisy, as they are doing today. Then, we won’t cling on to our masks anymore. Rather, we’ll want to remove them from our faces, and expose our naked selves under the radiating sun — the sun of truth and honesty. And then, after a long long time, the warm presence of trust, intimacy, love and belonging will at last be felt again.