The Benefits of Mindfulness

The Formula 1 #SaudiArabianGP was a race to remember. The championship battle between Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team’s Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull Racing & Red Bull Technology’s Max Verstappen is so intense that it is almost uncomfortable to watch. ALMOST, because of course my calendar for this weekend has been cleared. Nobody is going to keep me from watching the drama unfold in Abu Dhabi. I just hope we’ll have an official driver’s champion before the 2022 season starts.

There are many angles through which to analyze the race, but I’ve chosen to focus on mindfulness. I regularly do workshops on stress management, and whenever I bring up mindfulness, I can always spot a few eyes rolling.

‘Isn’t that the thing where you walk around in flip-flops and eat quinoa all day?’

That’s the answer I got from a participant once. No hard feelings, that was a legitimately hilarious remark. I get it, but no. That is not what mindfulness is about.

Greater Good Magazine, a website affiliated with Berkeley University, defines the practice of mindfulness as tuning into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Meditation is a very effective way of practicing mindfulness, but there are other ways to do it as well. Like driving a Formula 1 car at the absolute limit, which brings me to my observation of the weekend:

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both unbelievably mindful.

Lewis has been vocal about using mindfulness meditation to help him focus, something he started doing during the first lockdown. Max on the other hand, would probably laugh in my face if he’d been aware of this statement, but allow me to explain.

Max shows something called ‘stoic mindfulness’. Stoic mindfulness is about seeing things as they are, and not how we fear or want them to be. Now granted, he may be faking it. However, the one thing I have consistently seen in Max, is immediate acceptance of irrevocable decisions. Whether it be stewarding decisions he didn’t agree with, or his car lacking the straight line speed to catch the Mercs. He doesn’t give it much thought, and moves on.

There is one small caveat: what I’ve described above is mostly visible after the race, during interviews. When Max is in the car, the combination of drive, adrenaline, and adversity sometimes does seem to get the better of him. This is where Lewis pips Max. When you piss Lewis off, the beast comes out and he starts putting in fastest laps. When Max gets angry in the car, he starts taking bigger risks, which increases his chances of race control penalizing him. As much as I love hard racing, I would hate to see Max miss out on a world championship because of a 5-second penalty.

Perhaps Max should put on his flip-flops, grab a bowl of quinoa and meditate on it a bit before Sunday’s title decider 😉