Hypnotherapy for Sports Performance
Athletes spend a great deal of time training their bodies and they are now becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of adding mental training to their regime. Along side this there has been a substantial rise in the use of hypnotherapy to enhance sports performance.
As hypnosis is a suggestive technique, it can be easily used to help individuals to change their thoughts, feelings, perceptions, or behaviours. It is particularly suited to sports improvement as both are concerned with the hypnotic phenomenon of focused attention and positive visualisation. A footballer, for example, might use hypnosis to vividly imagine taking the perfect penalty or a golfer might clearly imagine the perfect swing. However, whilst visualisations in sport hypnosis are used to enhance performance, the main benefits from hypnotherapy in sport comes from having an improved mental stance, or a method, or a strategy (Edgette & Rowan 2003). Thus assisting individuals to acquire the skills to deal with the many personal and team problems that arise, not only during the sporting event, but in life in general.
As our unconscious mind actually provides the real power between the majority of our beliefs and behaviours, it seems obvious that a technique which provokes change from the unconscious would be particularly effective within the field of sport.
Often the edge that the sportsperson in front of you may have, is not that they are fitter or stronger, it is their mindset. Winning is not just about having the desire to win, you also needed the belief you can win, as well as the belief that you deserve to win. Alongside this you need to have the skills and mindset to cope with the stresses and pressures that come with the competitive world of sports. Sometimes athletes may be distracted by the stress of the game, of performance levels, or from the anxieties of life. Whilst a reasonable amount of anxiety can actually improve performance, when it becomes excessive, it can really limit performance, diminish the individual’s ability to focus and become quite resistant to change. An advantage of hypnotherapy is that it creates a state of relaxation that gently moderates anxiety and stress and, despite an individual's state of mind, the suggestions made during hypnosis meet little resistance from the athlete, making change even easier.
Hypnotherapy helps people to move towards a growth mindset, helping them to find ways to cope with stress and anxiety, to let go of self-limiting beliefs and replace them with positive beliefs and messages. Our brain is not hardwired, so just as weightlifting and physical exercise builds your muscles, hypnotherapy assists the nerve cells in your brain to grow with mental exercise, helping neurons to develop greater connectivity. It is these new connections that gives us a broader perspective, assisting us to focus and to adjust those negative beliefs and thoughts into much more positive and productive ones.
Successful athletes that have more control over their states of mind have the psychological advantage of staying in ‘the zone’ – having positive beliefs and motivation that bring a total focus on the task at hand.
Hypnosis has repeatedly being shown to be effective in increasing motivation, self-confidence and focus in athletes, as well as assisting to cultivate and maintain the appropriate states of mind required for peak performance (Barker, et al 2013). Hypnosis also trains the individual to achieve an emotional balance, with better integration of mental and physical processes, creating an optimal state of arousal, essential for peak performance in sport, where they are ‘intense but not tense’.
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Barker J, Jones MV, Greenlees I (2013) Using hypnosis to enhance self-efficacy in sport performers. Journal of clinical sport psychology 7: 228-247
Eugene JH, Rowen I (2003) winning the mind game; Using hypnosis in sport psychology. Bethel, CT: Crown