If you are serious about increasing performance, then hypnosis and imagery could improve your game. Used by athletes determined to find anything that will give them an edge over their competition that falls in line with regulations, a natural performance enhancement, used in sports psychology, and applied work in the field of sports sciences, so could it work for you?
What is the first component in improving performance, and when should we use it?
Mental strength, must be trained in the same way as everything else, and when increasing performance, it is often considered by athletes as part of ‘what’s needed to succeed’.
Although most athletes believe that 50% of the ability to play well is due to mental or psychological factors, American sport psychologist (Loehr, 1995) believes these mental skills are not practised nearly as often as the importance suggests. In fact, he believes most athletes use only 5%-10% of their entire training to improve their mental skills.
How do we define mental strength?
Is it the ability to consistently perform toward the upper range of talent or skill regardless of competitive circumstances, achieved through mental toughness?
Or, having a natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to cope better, to be more consistent, in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure?
Maybe to succeed we need to embrace the emotional aspects of our psyche so that we can achieve mental strength/toughness, and the ability to perform, using determination, focus and confidence, under pressure or in competition.
Loehr 1995 detailed mental toughness as a composition of four emotional markers.
- Emotional flexibility: The ability to handle situations in a balanced or non-defensive manner, using a wide range of positive emotions – humour, fighting spirit or pleasure.
- Emotional responsiveness: The ability to remain emotionally alert and committed, even under pressure, and to stay engaged in the competition rather than withdrawing.
- Emotional strength: The ability to handle great emotional force, whilst sustaining our own fighting spirit no matter the circumstances. To mediate our own strength and ignore that of our adversary even when under pressure, and to express an unyielding fighting spirit even in a hopeless situation.
- Emotional resiliency: The ability to handle setbacks, and recover quickly from them: to suffer a blow, and to immediately get into action again, to quickly disregard disappointments, errors and chances that were missed, and to continue in the competition with full power and concentration.
Per Loehr’s definition, emotions are the core elements of mental toughness that strongly impact an individual’s mental strength. Emotions are the organisational nuclei of motivation. We need to be enthusiastic about what we want to do, but emotions aren’t everything. We need cognitive processes, the part that deals with information processing, an important part of controlling thoughts, which is an important mental skill with several facets. Modern psychology refers to the control of thoughts, emotions and motivation as self-regulation. Self-regulation is another important element of psychological performance training.
Generally, we refer to mental strength as the ability to effectively apply self-regulatory skills, which make it possible for individuals to achieve their full performance potential even under unfavourable conditions.
Hypnosis has been around for longer than is has been coined hypnosis, however today well-trained therapists tend to mix old and new, and use neuroscientific findings to support older psychological theories. For example, it has been found that dopamine, a neurotransmitter is highest when success is unexpected. However, no dopamine is released if success or even failure appears to be certain. (Beck & Beckmann, 2010). Naturally this has practical consequences for design of practise, and correspond to Atkinson’s achievement motivation theory from 1957. Per this theory, at least in individuals who are confident of being successful, the highest level of motivation is instigated by tasks with the greatest insecurity regarding the result (either success or failure). This is the case when the likelihood of success is about 50%. Also in agreement with older motivational theories, current neuroscientific results show that after longer phases of practice, an onset of dopamine release occurs when activity-related stimuli merely involved reward cues. This enables motivational incentives to be perceived.
Using a skilled therapist to help channel the brains natural reward and pleasure centres, can help regulate movement and emotional responses, boosting motivation, to not only seek reward, but to act towards them. A skilled therapist can also help a client to improve self-regulation, a fundamental role in competitive and professional performance. Helping clients stick to a plan, providing mental tools so that they won’t give up when things get tough, an aid to mobilise additional energy when needed, especially when an anticipated workload is strenuous rather than stimulating.
An increase in dopamine although an essential component for motivation, in excess can increase susceptibility to stress.
Hypnotherapy is completely safe and can help a client with relaxation techniques, handling of problem situations, stress and pressure, increase self-confidence, performance, and even manage pain and IBS effectively.
It may be worth noting that there is a theory that adult stress manifests or is felt in the stomach area, so it makes sense that reducing stress, could relieve symptoms associated with the stomach and digestion.