Psychology is a core part of professional gaming, and many esports teams such as Team Liquid, have hired esports psychologists to help their gamers train their minds. One of the number one mind training tools that they use is meditation, and indeed, many pro gamers meditate, including League Of Legends’ Faker and Street Fighter’s immortal Daigo Umehara.
Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind on the present moment with a non-judgmental attitude. There are many different meditation techniques such as Buddhist meditation, Taoist, modern scientific methods, and guided meditation. And these exercises can offer big advantages for the pro gamer.
For instance, certain techniques can help to improve your aim in first person shooters like CS:GO and Overwatch. Other techniques can improve spatial awareness, which can help in many ways such as by improving your “footsies” in fighting games like Street Fighter 6. And most meditations will improve your calmness and confidence so that you can perform at your best in major tournaments, whether that be the Fight Game Community’s EVO (Evolution Championship Series), The Dota Championship, or your local gaming tournaments.
So how can you use esports psychology and meditation to improve your gaming and become a professional esports player? Well that’s where I come in as a professional meditation teacher and former competitive gamer
So, let me show you how.
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Meditation for Pro Gamers
Let’s take a look at the many ways in which mindfulness and meditation can help you as a gamer. And along the way I’ll share some great guided meditations that you can use to get started.
A Calm Mind During Gaming Tournaments
Anyone who has ever competed in an esports tournament knows that pressure can be an issue. Indeed, research shows that esports players face a similar level of stress to professional rugby and football players.
When you’re playing in an elimination bracket, being streamed on Twitch and Youtube, with money on the line and sponsors expecting results, the stress can affect you and can potentially interfere with your gaming such that your regularly polished mechanics suddenly look sloppy. So far from hitting headshots you seem to be firing blanks. But meditation can help.
It’s well known that meditation reduces stress and increases calmness. Technically, meditation does this by promoting the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system while also balancing brain chemicals such as cortisol, the stress chemical (more on the science here). These physiological benefits are one reason why professional athletes meditate.
There are many meditations that can help you to stay calm, and the best place to start is with basic mindful breathing, which is traditionally called Anapanasati. This is a great place for beginners start. (If you’ve never meditated before, here is a guide to practising meditation at home).
Mindful breathing is essentially watching the breath moving through the body, and when the mind wanders, calmly guiding your awareness back to the breath.
Try the following guided meditation to get started.
Better Gameplay Mechanics
Naturally if you want to be a pro gamer you need incredible mechanics, whether it’s nailing your combos in a fighting game or hitting consistent headshots in a first person shooter. Essentially these types of mechanical skills come down to motor control in the brain. It’s your brain’s ability to move your hands and fingers in that incredibly precise way so that you execute the correct combination of button presses inthe right order and at the right time.
And again, meditation can help.
Research by the University of South Australia shows that people who perform the yogic meditation technique Yoga Nidra have better than average motor skills. Yoga Nidra is a form of mantra meditation that involves meditating on a sound or word. Study participants who practiced this technique for 30 minutes per day exhibited better than average motor performance, meaning they had better coordination of movement. You can easily see how this could apply to gaming, for instance by improving your ability to perform complex combos in fighting games, which for me means nailing my Juri Feng Shui combos in Street Fighter 6.
You can try mantra meditation with the guided meditation below.
One of the most popular genres of esports games has always been the first-person shooter. And in every FPS from Call Of Duty to Overwatch, you need good aim.
There are several processes involved with aiming. Obviously you have to move the crosshairs and pull the trigger. But beyond that, you need to have good visual coordination so that you can accurately place the crosshair over your enemy’s head to get that headshot. If you can’t do that, your Time To Kill (TTK) will be pretty bad.
What most people don’t realise is that our vision is not perfectly still. If you look directly ahead at an object and focus on it, you will notice that your gaze actually wanders a bit. This is due to microsaccades, which are tiny movements of the eyes. The eyes move in accordance to electrical variance in the brain. Movements of the brain cause movements of the eyes that in turn means that what you’re looking at is not entirely still. And because what you’re looking at (your target) is not entirely still, your aim will be slightly off. This gets worse in tournaments, where stress leads to an increase in neural activity, leading to more microsaccades, less stable vision, and ultimately, worse aim.
If only there were a way to stabilise both the mind and the brain, hence improving our aim. Well, there is, and it’s called Trataka Meditation, a technique in which we hold our gaze still, focusing on an object directly in front of us. Research published in the Journal of Alternative And Complementary Medicine shows that Trataka reduces microsaccades. The research states that this leads to improved mental health, but we can safely assume that by stabilizing our vision, Trataka will also improve our aim.
You can try Trataka using the guided meditation below.
One core part of esports is teamwork, and this is true both during matches and in general. Indeed, if you look at the top esports teams like OG, Team Spirit, and Evil Geniuses, they go to arms length to ensure good teamwork. Teams need to work together to create a harmonious, supportive environment and also to create and execute team-based gameplay. This is probably most true in team-based shooters like Rainbow Six and Valorant.
Good teamwork is about good communication, mutual empathy and compassion for each member of the team, and last but not least, trust. And again meditation can help here. Indeed in our own corporate meditation classes we often work with companies in which for various reasons teamwork has broken down, and we’ve seen firsthand how compassion-based meditations such as Loving Kindness, can help to create trust and a sense of community, ultimately improving teamwork.
Above, I’ve shared many of the best advantages of meditation for gamers. I’ve also avoided mentioning the mental health benefits because these are already well known and aren’t unique to gaming.
That said, here is a shortlist of some of the other benefits you can expect if you choose to get into meditation.
- Better overall mental and physical health
- Less tilt!
- Enhanced creativity so you can make plays on the fly
- Better focus
- Be calmer in the big moments
- Improve memory (so you can remember all those stats in DOTA 2 and LOL)
- Because you’re more relaxed you’ll enjoy gaming even more!
What To Do Next
As you can see, there are many benefits of meditation for gamers. Not only can it help to improve your mental health, but it can also improve your gameplay, such as by increasing aim accuracy and helping you to make strategical gameplay decisions in the heat of battle
As a former competitive gamer and now meditation teacher, I’ve seen both from myself and from my clients how meditation can enhance the life and the success of the esports gamer. I invite you to join me for a meditation lesson so I can help you boost your gaming.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison