Mental Practice & Sports Hypnosis
With the Olympics looming large on the horizon this year, I thought it would perhaps be a good time to talk about one of the best examples of “Mental Practice”. Sports Hypnosis.
Utilising the hypnotic state to foster a better performance in sport is nothing new. In fact, most sports men and women do it anyway. Just as we all drift in and out of hypnosis whilst going about our daily business without realising it, sports personalities are using hypnosis to better themselves. When they choose to retain the services of a hypnotherapist, perhaps one that specialises in the field, they are merely putting a formal structure on what they do anyway.
I actually rather enjoy taking a client for this sort of hypnosis. They are motivated anyway. There’s none of the usual resistance to change and that is refreshing. But, how does sports hypnosis work? Quite literally through “Mental Practice”.
Visualise the last time you saw a track event. Say the 100 metre sprint. They’re all lined up at the start with seconds to go before the off. The camera pans down the line in it’s usual dramatic fashion and you will see a certain “focus” on the faces of all the participants. What are they thinking? Well I’ll tell you. They are all visualising the coming race. They are all seeing themselves winning and reinforcing the belief in themselves. They have all gone into a waking hypnotic trance, focussed on nothing but the race ahead. In doing this visualisation, they are mentally rehearsing or practising the coming race.
How does this work? Well, it is thought that the sub-conscious mind cannot actually tell the difference between reality and what is made up. It’s like having a lucid dream. Perhaps you’ve fallen over in that dream and you wake up before you actually hit the ground and hurt yourself. That’s the sub-conscious not realising that it’s not real and triggering a physical response in order to deal with it. So repeatedly visualising and mentally rehearsing an event in the sub-conscious could be said to be as good as actually doing it. Research has even shown that utilising mental rehearsal in this fashion actually builds the same neural pathways in the brain as if you were doing it for real.
Sports hypnosis is but an example of this mental rehearsal. It can be utilised in all walks of life to achieve all manner of things. So with that pearl of wisdom, please do excuse me; I’m off to mentally rehearse the rest of my day. No I’m not day-dreaming… Honest!