In the past few weeks, millions of people watched Team Canada win 25 medals at the Sochi Winter Olympics. The Olympics have always been a huge platform to showcase some of the world’s most talented athletes. However, one has to wonder how these athletes can perform so well under so much pressure and attention. Yes, practice might lead to perfection, but we’ve all seen athletes choke at key moments. These games don’t just challenge athletes physically, but also require them to be mentally focused, motivated, and confident. Recent articles detail how sports hypnosis or visualization can provide the mental preparation athletes need to succeed in their Olympic efforts and how you, too, can use these techniques to improve your own athletic ability or simply increase your mental stamina.
The Psychology Today article, “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization,” explains the many benefits of mental practice. Physical practice of an action, such as a golf swing, can obviously help you perfect the movement so it seems second nature. However, new studies show that when you mentally walk through each step of that single action, the same brain patterns are activated as those that occur when you are physically practicing your golf swing. This will make it much easier to perform under pressure because you have thoroughly rehearsed this movement both physically and mentally. By incorporating as many senses into your mental visualization as possible, you become much more prepared for the actual event.
We’ve seen this mental practice in the warm-ups of many Olympians. The New York Times recently published an article, “Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training,” which details how multiple Olympic athletes visualize the track or the slope they have to tackle hundreds of times before their event. Team USA, for example, attended this year’s Olympics with nine sports psychologists to help their athletes mentally prepare for their individual events. U.S. Freestyle aerials olympian Emily Cook explains how she uses very specific imagery to prepare for her event. She includes as many details as possible, incorporating all of her senses, while imagining her success in the start up area. “Oh, yeah, it’s ridiculous; we’re all up there flapping our arms,” Cook said about her fellow athletes. “It looks insane, but it works.”
Sometimes an athlete can fall into a slump, though. After one mistake, their confidence can plummet, making it much more difficult to focus on the current event instead of their previous error. Regression can be an excellent hypnosis tool to help athletes recover their confidence and remember their successes more than their failures. It allows athletes to recall when they were at their peak performance, remember how they felt, how they executed every movement, and how effortless it was for them to succeed in their event. By recovering this extremely detailed memory, an athlete can repeatedly visualize a single winning moment until it becomes a stronger memory than that of when they failed. Reinforcing successful memories can help to eradicate the fear of failure, thus decreasing the chances of choking under pressure and pulling an athlete out of their slump.
Anchors can also be a great tool to help an athlete immediately focus on the task at hand. These can be anything, from a song to a smell, that engages your senses to help recover certain memories or emotions which can help you focus in the moment. Every athlete has a warm-up routine to settle their nerves before an event. Putting your right shoe on before your left can sometimes mean the difference between a gold and a silver medal. Certain movements, like snapping your fingers three times, or habits like lacing one skate up before the other can help athletes tune out everything else and focus solely on their success. You can create these ‘anchors’ by going into hypnosis and having a hypnotist tie the concepts of focus, determination, and confidence to these specific movements. Then, when you’re in a conscious state, these anchors act as important tools to help you become calm and ready moments before you must perform.
This technique is not only useful in terms of athletic ability, but also in preparing for public speaking functions, which is important for athletes who require public sponsorship to continue participating in their events. The public presence required by Olympic athletes demands a sense of confidence and preparation to answer the myriad of questions thrown at them. Anchors can help an athlete, or anybody, overcome shyness or general anxiety regarding public speaking. Visualizing the interviews take place or giving a speech can be just as effective as continuously practicing answering difficult questions or running through your lines. By being mentally prepared, you will be much more confident in the face of public pressure.
Hypnosis tools such as visualization, anchoring, and regression are becoming much more important in the athletic arena. They can give an athlete an edge in their event by making them more focused and mentally prepared. The success of sports hypnosis is evident as athletes increasingly turn to sports hypnotists and psychologists to help them prepare for these events. You can use these techniques to help boost your own athletic performance or even just increase your confidence in public speaking. Visualizing your own success can help you learn how to tackle your obstacles and achieve your goals whether they be athletic or personal. Contact us now to schedule a free half-hour consultation and see how hypnosis can help you succeed!