The mind is far more powerful than you may realize. Recent breakthroughs in brain sciences have shown mind over matter is a reality.

Thoughts are potent and can contribute to success or failure in athletic performance and competition. But just as you need to practice and train your muscles, you also need to condition your mind in productive ways.

Here are 7 tips to optimize your performance with your mind:

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1. Believe you can do it

Whether it’s mastering high hurdles, winning a tennis point, or finishing a triathalon. If you have an ounce of self-doubt, it insidiously creeps into your muscles and sabotages your execution.

If you don’t truly believe in yourself, you need to take a giant step back and retrain your brain for self-actualization by using tips #2-7.

2. Focus, focus, focus

This is imperative for all endeavors and also takes practice. Develop mindfulness by using repetitive exercises.

For instance, in golf it’s important to develop a pre-shot routine and allow your mind to be totally prepared before each shot. In tennis, you may focus on the ball’s logo as it careens across the net to keep your mind in the moment.

It’s important to develop laser-like focus on your specific activity to keep stress at a minimum and avoid distractions. Doing so helps you stay keenly present and ready to deliver all that you have.

3. Develop positive self-talk

By creating key words or phrases that instill confidence to motivate and propel you onward. They must resonate with you and your capabilities. For instance, words such as “strong,” “fearless,” “energetic,” “powerful,” “relentless,” “winner” are all good ones to use.

Pick three (or develop your own) and repeat them to yourself daily. Write them down, record them, listen to them.

For instance, you can say to yourself “I’m powerful, fearless and a winner.”

Then when you’re under the pressure of performance, allow your mind to focus on these stimulating thoughts. It takes practice but can be extremely effective.

Personally I use impactful statements or affirmations to buoy myself when needed.

My favorite is “I’m a person of great value. I’m an expression of the divine,” which elevates my sense of self to a much higher level instantaneously.

It may take some experimentation to find your special phrase. It’s worth pursuing.

4. Breathe!

There are a variety of breathing exercises that improve body and mind function and also help maintain calmness in the heat of any challenge.

To make sure you’ll effortlessly default to using such a technique, practice it every day.

Try some simple methods such as counting to 5 on each inhalation and to 7 or 8 on each exhalation. Not only does breathing help physiologically to oxygenate your cells but it is extremely centering and relaxing.

When you practice a regular breathing technique, you’ll be more inclined to pull it out when you’re struggling to heighten your performance.

improve performance with your mind_25. Get in the zone

Many athletes mindlessly – and accidentally – enter the zone of performance where everything seems to come together effortlessly and they’re at their peak. Unfortunately some days they perform “out of their minds” but other days, they tank because they don’t really understand how they got there.

Cross-training in yoga, qigong and meditation can help sensitize you to the true path of tapping into the harmonious state of integration consciously.

When you’re in the zone, you can perform even beyond your wildest expectations.

Use my Plan “Yoga Body-Mind Builder” at WatchFit to learn how to enter the zone more easily.

6. Use visualization…

Use visualization to prime your brain and enhance neural-motor responses. Create mental imagery in which you envision that your achievement is already happening. In golf it’s “seeing” the ball in a perfect arc soaring over the water and landing a foot from the hole.

In tennis, it’s visualizing your serve or volley which you can do to train even when you’re off the court.

In neurolinguistics programming, visualization is shown to be most effective when you create an entire sensory picture.

For instance, to hit a perfect tennis serve, picture it in your mind while at the same time imagining the feelings of it through all your senses.

Notice the muscles that are used, the sweet sound of the ball popping off the strings, the colors you see, perhaps even the taste of salty sweat. The more complete a visualization you create, the more the mind accepts it as reality and the more your mind and body achieve a heightened readiness.

7. Add digital cognitive training

Add cognitive training to your practices with touch screens and computer games that offer simulations of specific aspects of sports.

These newer approaches of mental reps help improve reaction time, visual perception, focus, and get your brain better prepared for the real thing. Not only does this technique activate beneficial brain pathways for high performance but also builds confidence in the process.

Many of today’s athletes are breaking performance records using the power of mind-body integration.

By wiring the brain for optimal performance, you can lower stress levels, heighten response times and improve mind resilience.

Prepare your mine and your body

So if you want to improve performance, you’ll need to spend as much time preparing your mind as you do your body! In the end, you might even find your mental training spills positively into the game of life!

Peggy Sealfon is a personal development coach and author of the best-selling book Escape from Anxiety—Supercharge Your Life with Powerful Strategies from A to Z. Check out her WatchFit Plans: Stress Buster Plan or Yoga: Body-Mind Builder.

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