If you have to choose only one non-chess-related technique to help you improve your game, it should be meditation. The benefits of this exercise are quite extensive and will be visible in numerous areas of your life.
But why is meditation so valuable for a chess player? First, let’s answer this question as well as the concept and then I will tell you how you can start meditating.
Benefits of meditation for a chess player
If you clicked on the link in the introduction (I suggest you do it now if you didn’t), you probably discovered that beyond overall health improvement, meditation is one of the best things you can do to enhance your brain abilities. But what is relevant when it comes to chess needs?
Increase focus, memory and energy
Almost every player wishes that they could be more focused while playing, be in better shape during the whole game as well as remember more easily what they prepared the day before. All these aspirations can actually be achieved by daily meditation. Practice increases the presence of higher levels of dopamine in your brain, which works towards increasing your ability to concentrate. And this little neurotransmitter doesn’t stop there; it helps equally in the memory process and gives you more motivation.
Foster Creativity and best decision-making
People who meditate seem to perform better at tasks for which they are asked to come up with new ideas. Paying more attention to being present could also help you make smarter choices.
And for some of you who have difficulties managing stress, meditation is also a good remedy.
But what is meditation exactly?
Knowing now all the advantages, I thought useful to highlight the concept before you start your first meditation session.
In essence, meditation is a state of having a clear mind and allowing your mind to be free of thought. The more you practice it, the more you will get closer to this heightened level of consciousness.
There are many forms of meditation, but the most basic one, which is giving full attention to your breath, is certainly the easiest to start with.
How to start meditating?
Yes, focus on your breath, that’s all it takes to meditate. You can thus practice it almost anywhere and whenever you want. But as a beginner, here are practical steps to start with:
Where: Sit upright anywhere at home where you’re sure you won’t be disturbed and in a comfortable position (chair, on the floor with a pillow and so on)
When: As a beginner, opt for morning sessions. You’ll get the day off to a good start and will be less likely to put off meditating (which often happens with afternoon or evening sessions).
- Set a timer for 10 minutes and close your eyes.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, while counting to 3.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for 6 counts.
- Repeat the breathing pattern for the allotted period of time.
One last thing, you’ll notice your tricky mind wanders from time to time. Don’t worry as it’s totally normal when you begin so anytime it happens, gently lead it back to your breath.
Meditate as chess training
The Dalai Lama was once asked how long it took for noticeably life-changing effects, to which he replied succinctly: “Around 50 hours.”[i]
I will personally aim for this 50-hour target during my experiment and see the impact in a few months. While many forms of meditation exist, I will privilege mostly breath focus as it seems to be the most appropriate one to strengthen my attention.
I honestly don’t have sufficient experience now to give you pertinent feedback but looking at all the benefits that studies have mentioned, especially relating to brain development, I definitely encourage you to consider daily meditation as part of your chess training.
So as the saying goes: don’t miss the boat.