Tom Daley once 'defined' himself by how well he dived. Now he says mindful meditation allows him to see the 'bigger picture' in life

·6-min read
Olympic diver Tom Daley won the hearts of the world by showcasing his knitting skills during the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Now he's taking it a step further. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)
Olympic diver Tom Daley won the hearts of the world by showcasing his knitting skills during the Tokyo Summer Olympics. Now he's taking it a step further. (Photo: Getty; designed by Quinn Lemmers)

The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.

If there's one thing you should know about Tom Daley, it's that he's up for trying anything.

The Olympic gold medalist, 27, known for his boyish charm and affable on-air personality became a global meme at the Tokyo Olympics when fans got wind of his knitting talents. Now the diver, husband and father is putting his appetite for adventure to the test in the new Pinterest TV series, Tom Tries, where he teams up with seven grandmas and grandpas to learn new sets of skills like baking, dancing and bodybuilding. (He even has a go at bonsai tree gardening!)

But for Daley, the show, which can be streamed on the Pinterest app as well as via desktop, is more than just about learning and cultivating new passions. At its core, he aims to link older and younger generations together by encouraging viewers to examine universal methods of mindful meditation practices — something that is especially important to Daley.

"I always start with 10 minutes of mindfulness every day," Daley tells Yahoo Life. "I try to start with it anyway, if my son doesn't wake up while I'm halfway through."

Daley, who shares son Robbie, 3, with his husband, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, says that because he's spent years practicing meditation, he's now able to do it pretty much anywhere. "Sometimes if I'm on a train and I have an extended period of time, or if I'm in a car or whatever, I find a place to be able to just do it," he says. "It always makes me feel better."

Of course, being the parent of a toddler means life can get a bit unpredictable, but Daley has found ways around it. "You get a little bit less sleep, but you have to be kind to yourself as well in order to be the best parent," he explains.

"When I was training [for the Olympics], I didn't have much time during the day so I used to wake up an hour earlier to have an hour to myself," he says. "I would have my coffee, watch the news and catch up on things that I wanted to do so that when Robbie woke up, I was excited for him to wake up. It never felt like we woke up at the same time and were both trying to catch up on what we needed to do. Not that he had that much to do! But, for me, I felt like, 'Oh my gosh, I need to do my emails or I want to watch the news, but I don't want Robbie to watch the news,' all of these things. So being able to make a little bit of time for myself has been really important.”

Developing mindful acts of meditation through arts and crafts has been immensely rewarding in Daley's life, which is something he hopes to pay forward.

"For me, knitting was my mindfulness and meditation," he says. "I think it's because you have to be so 'in the moment' and so focused on what you're doing that all of the other distractions outside, you can't be thinking about. It's a great way to be able to center everything and be very, you know, in that particular moment. I think that's what people often get freaked out about sometimes: 'What's next? How am I going to do that? Oh my gosh, I've run out of time.' People's minds are going a million miles an hour. Sometimes just taking the time to sit down, relax and just have 10 minutes to yourself can change that."

That kind of meditation also comes in handy during times of trouble, especially on days when nothing seems to be going the right way.

"I try to reset as much as possible," Daley shares about how he handles stress. "I just kind of take myself away from the situation and then come back to it. We all could go for a walk, but not every situation lends itself to that. For me, I take my knitting needles everywhere. If I want to have a little reset, sometimes knitting puts my mind somewhere else to come back and be fresh. Everyone says, 'Oh, there's always tomorrow.' But it's never too early to start your day again."

Daley has come a long way from "caring so much about what people think" during his early diving years, when he was just beginning to win the hearts of Britain. He now credits his meditation practices for helping him see the bigger picture in life.

“As I've gotten older, I was like, the only people's opinions that matter, that I should actually worry about, are the people close to me,” he explains. "As long as my friends and family are happy, and I know that I'm being the best human being that I can be, the rest becomes irrelevant."

That mindset transfers to his relationship with social media as well: "Follow [social media] accounts that either make you laugh or inspire you," he advises young people, encouraging them not to "read the comments" as much as they feel they should. "I find Twitter to be quite a hateful place," he says. "If you really want to know what people think about you, put your name into Twitter. [But] I don't really worry too much about what other people are saying."

These days, Daley says knowing exactly who he is from the inside out has helped him realize his place in the world — and it's far from the high-stakes life of being on the Olympic stage.

"I used to define myself by how well I dived," he says."But when you can step back and realize that you're part of something bigger, and have a perspective that there's so many other things that are going on in the world — like, for me, I'm a parent, I'm a father, I'm a husband, I'm a son, a friend, a knitter — finding things to diversify what you think about every single day, can really help. Because if you just have work, you just have one thing you're doing, all the time. It's the same with [being a parent]. If I was just with Robbie all the time, for example, it would be beneficial for me to find something that I really enjoy doing at the same time as well. Having things outside of [your normal routine] can really help."

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