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CBT, Mindfulness & Snowboarding

My husband and I went snowboarding at Big White yesterday. It was the first time I had snowboarded in a couple of years. It was a fantastic day – sunny, mild, lots of snow, and injury-free! While on the mountain, I was struck by how much my snowboarding experience relates to mindfulness, CBT, and positive psychology. Here are a few examples:

1. Snowboarding as CBT practice

I almost gave up snowboarding a few years ago because I felt intimidated by the mountains, and even more so, by other skiers and boarders. Fortunately, CBT has helped me become aware of the thoughts behind the fear and equipped me with tools for handling them.

The thoughts came up yesterday. They sounded like, “The other skiers and snowboarders are much more skilled than you. You are embarrassing yourself. Other people are judging you for your clumsiness and your old, outdated gear.” In the past, I would have accepted these thoughts as Truth and considered selling my gear.

Now, I notice, “I’m having the thought that others are laughing at me”. I take that thought, hold it up, and shine some light on it: What is the evidence for this thought? I search for evidence and find none. Now, do I want to accept this thought? Let it go? Replace it with a different thought? Yesterday, I concluded that there was no reason to believe that anyone was watching and judging me any more than I was paying attention to other skiers. As a result, I felt less self-conscious and enjoyed the day more. It’s not about ‘positive thinking’ – it’s about realistic thinking.

Snowboarding - something I enjoy but lack confidence in – is an opportunity to use CBT to overcome anxiety. The more we practice, the better and more natural it becomes. This applies to snowboarding and thinking skills!

2. Snowboarding as ‘Mindful Flow’

According to positive psychology, a ‘flow state’ occurs when we are completely absorbed in whatever we are doing. Time stands still as we exist fully in the present moment. We are in the ‘zone’ when we have an optimal level of challenge – not too much, not too little. It’s mindfulness that happens naturally. For me, a wide-open blue-level hill is where I find flow. I’m completely in my body, navigating the run with all my senses, alert, and unafraid. It feels like a rush of ‘aliveness’, unimpeded by ruminations on the past or anxieties about the future.

3. Snowboarding an opportunity to experience AWE

Awe is the emotion of self-transcendence. We experience it when confronted with something vast, powerful, extraordinary, and often beautiful. In awe, we feel small, insignificant, and almost fearful in the presence of something we can’t fully comprehend. Awe can be a religious or spiritual experience. Through a relationship with God and/or nature, awe inspires and elevates us. The extraordinary and – in places - otherworldly beauty of Big White mountain, filled me with awe yesterday. And I am enriched and healthier for it.

CBT thinking skills, flow states, and awe strengthen and enhance our mental health and well-being… but you don’t have to be a snowboarder or skier to achieve them. Any challenging, emotion-provoking situation is an invitation to examine your thoughts. Flow is found in countless activities and is unique to the individual. And each of us has felt awe at different times in our life. Maybe take a few minutes to pick one of these concepts and reflect on how it relates to your life.

Thanks for reading!

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