What have ASP tour surfer Russell Winter, Beijing Olympic champions Vince Hancock and Steve Hooker have  in common? They have all used sports hypnosis to enhance their performance. Hypnosis and sport used to be considered unlikely bedfellows, but have been used by sports participants for at least the last six decades.

As far back as the 1950s, members of the Russian Olympic team are reported to have used hypnosis as a performance enhancing technique. Today Hypnosis is considered an important tool, used by many athletes like boxers Frank Bruno, Steve Collins and Nigel Benn. Hypnosis has even been used by some football teams such as Crystal Palace and Swindon Town. In fact, Hypnosis can be used to assist in many if not all forms of sport.

So what exactly is sports hypnosis and how can it help?

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Sports hypnosis is a combination of hypnosis with the more traditional forms of sports psychology. Hypnotherapy was first developed in 1841 by the Scottish physician and surgeon, James Braid. He intended it to be a common sense and scientifically-sound method of using ordinary psychological and physical processes to achieve sometimes dramatic therapeutic benefits.

The state of hypnosis can best be described as a state of highly focused attention with heightened suggestibility. Many people have misconceptions about hypnosis such as a fear that they will lose control when ‘under’. This is simply not the case. Indeed, hypnosis involves the individual reclaiming control of their internal attention and thoughts. Hypnosis can help an athlete “defuse” from their negative thoughts, self-talk and beliefs and instead “fuse” with helpful positive thoughts and attitudes that enable them to perform more effectively in the here and now. Sports Hypnosis is suitable for all levels from amateur to those in the top of their class.

Sports hypnosis can be of real benefit in helping an athlete to..

– Deal effectively with their competition nerves .

– Build their confidence and increase their performance motivation.

– Manage stress and aid relaxation.

– Improve focus and concentration reinforcing their sporting goals.

There is even some research that suggests that hypnosis can assist in speeding  up the healing process after a sports injury.

How positive mental imagery in hypnosis can improve sports performance

Many professional athletes use guided imagery to improve their performance. Focusing the mind can result in real performance gains. Imagery is an effective way of enhancing arousal so that an athlete can feel focused and prepared for competition .When imagery is used within hypnosis either with a hypnotherapist or by using self-hypnosis it can enhance the potency of the imagery used. The heightened state of awareness that hypnosis produces will enable an athlete  to experience a more vivid mental rehearsal, and so benefit in preparation for an event.

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What follows is an example of mental imagery rehearsal in action

1. Sit in a comfortable chair

2. Get yourself into a comfortable position keeping your arms and legs uncrossed.

3. Take in a slow deep breath and breath out silently repeating a word such as relax

4.I n your mind picture a past event were you were performing at optimum   performance and felt in full control.

5. Focus on how good it felt both physically and mentally.

6. As you focus on that image and associated feeling try and encapsulate in a single word repeating the word with positive emotion and real meaning before opening your eyes.

Practice using that word with the same passion and conviction repeatedly in training in order to evoke arousal for an event.

It can also  help if, when you have a particularly good training session or event, to  immediately write down the associated feelings and sensations that accompanied it, such as what you heard, felt, smelt and the positive thoughts in your head. You can then draw on these for the future.

Pain and injury

As previously mentioned Hypnosis can help athletes deal with pain and injuries. An athlete can learn to dissociate from the pain in order to better cope and perform in spite of it. Relaxation can also be of help in managing pain associated with many sports. Hypnosis can also help athletes recover more quickly from a sports injury. By enhancing recovery time an athlete can return to practice and competition more quickly, which can be very important for athletes competing at the highest levels.

Sports hypnosis works

You may not be a professional athlete, however, hypnosis can help you reach higher levels of performance in whatever sport you play. Developing your mental skills is now recognized as an important part of athletic training. Gone are the days when an athlete had to rely on chance in order to develop a relaxed confident performance. Now you have a choice. You can work with a hypnotherapist who has experience in sports hypnosis, listen to hypnosis recordings or learn various self-hypnosis techniques such as those mentioned earlier.  You may find your performance improving much more than you thought possible!

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