Countless successful sports men and women have used hypnosis to improve their performance for many years. Hypnosis is sometimes called creative visualisation, and it’s simply the process of using your imagination to increase your skill set.
The repeated act of mentally rehearsing movement, action and reaction, creates changes in your brain and body.
New neural connections start to form in your brain and these connections strengthen the more you rehearse the images. When you vividly imagine performing a particular move like a back-hand in tennis, your muscles strengthen and grow as if you had actually taken part in a training session. This was proven when a scientist took two groups of people. The first actively played a specific piano piece and the second group visualised doing so.
Why does visualisation increase performance and physical ability?
In short – because your brain doesn’t know the difference between the two.
A study by Soviet Scientists showed the effects of mental training on performance. During the 70’s Olympic athletes were divided into 4 groups.
Group 1 did 100% physical training
Group 2 did 75% physical training and 25% mental training
Group 3 did 50% physical training and 50 % mental training
Group 4 did 25% physical training and 75% mental training
And guess who showed the greatest increase in performance – group 4 who did the most mental training! And what was as fascinating was that group 1 who didn’t do any mental training showed the least increase in performance. Subsequent training regimes for Russian athletes bought huge rewards in the 1976 Olympics as the Russians won a total of 125 medals, 35 more than their nearest rivals the USA.
Why is mental rehearsal so important?
To answer this question we need to have a quick look at how your brain works. When you are improving or learning a new skill you need your analytical brain to learn practice and then reflect on how you can do it better.
Your logical mind couldn’t hope to house all the complex alignment of muscular skeletal moves needed to play a game of tennis or follow a gymnastic routine. It is your subconscious mind that collates the millions of pieces of data needed to do a forehand stroke or twist and turn on the bars. So once a skill is repeatedly practiced the coordination of that skill passed to your subconscious mind.
All good so far but problems can arise when your conscious mind tries to muscle in on the all knowing and seeing subconscious mind. Thoughts like ‘will I win?’ ‘he/she is better than me’ destroy the minds natural ability to relax and focus on the game. Thoughts impede the neural firing that stimulates the learnt muscle reactions.
Getting into the “flow’ state is vital for best performance.
Now you may think it mad but even a sprinter has to be in a relaxed state to do well. Now that’s not ‘relaxed’ as in sitting by the fire with a hot chocolate but simply their mind is totally focused on the job in hand.
There can be many distractions
- the crowd
- thinking about outcome ‘will I be good enough today’
- worry about the effect of past injury
- past defeats
- have I done enough to do well?
Any thought will hamper progress. As Tim Gallwey said in his book series The Inner Game
‘Potential + Interferences = Performance’
Competitions have been won and lost through a competitor using their imagination to outshine their opponents. To have rehearsed a powerful performance and all that this entails is to give yourself the best chance of doing well.
5 Tips On How To Use Hypnosis To Do Your Best In Your Sport
- Take your mental rehearsal seriously. Factor time in to do it, remember the studies show it is as important and all the rigours of your physical practice.
- Decide what aspects you want to improve and set a schedule.
- Get a good feeling going. Quieten your mind and think of something that makes you feel good. You could pick a past sporting success – anything that makes you have a good vibe. Like being happy proud, light hearted, strong or fast.
- Repeatedly day-dream about doing that aspect well.
- And here is the most important part – go through all of your senses to create the most effective hypnosis session. Bring in what you will feel like, imagine the racquet in your hand and what it feels like to move to return that particular shot. Where will your eyes be focused? What sounds do you hear? Is there a scent around like sun cream? And make the picture as vivid as you can.
Your mind has an infinite power to affect your performance. If you take time for mental rehearsal – know that you have the edge above any competitor that doesn’t.
Written by Jill Wootton, August 2015.