At Center Point Medicine we use hypnosis and counseling to treat patients who have medical and mental health problems. However, once kids learn how to use hypnosis to help themselves, they are free to apply this technique to any aspect of their lives. For example, many athletes want to know how hypnosis can help them improve their athletic performance.
I review with my patients how they can help themselves in athletics, because the more they use hypnosis the better they become with its application including for their health condition. The reasons for this improvement in their hypnotic ability include that the more they use hypnosis the more they can become self-confident, adept with using imagery to promote change, and in control of how they act and react. In other words, they become empowered.
I explain to my patients that 90% of athletic performance is mental. I point out that the best players in various sports are not the fastest, strongest, or tallest, but the reason they excel is because of their mental prowess. Further, I point out that most great athletes use hypnosis or imagery to improve their performance including Michael Jordan (basketball), Wayne Gretzky (hockey), Eric Heiden (Olympic speed skater), Tiger Woods (golf), and likely even Babe Ruth (baseball).
As for health conditions, a good place to start with hypnosis for an athlete is to learn how to use hypnosis to relax. This can be done by imagining a relaxing place and/or focusing on body relaxation one muscle group at a time. The athlete then learns how to trigger a relaxation response during an athletic event. Relaxation allows the athlete to perform more effortlessly and confidently, which improves their performance. A relaxed athlete is less likely to dwell on previous mistakes, less likely to be self-conscious while playing, and more likely to move fluidly. Such a relaxed state often is associated with playing in the zone, which athletes describe as feeling fully immersed in their games, while having great energy, effortless focus, and a mindset that they are performing to the best of their ability.
A second hypnosis method to improve performance is to visualize the desired outcome before and even during a competition. For example, a baseball player can imagine hitting the ball well. Babe Ruth did that when he pointed to the stands before hitting a homerun to that very location. A golfer can imagine the desirable trajectory of the struck ball. Wayne Gretzky explained that he was excellent in hockey because he would skate to where he would imagine the puck would go once it was struck by another player.
Mental rehearsal is key for athletic performance. The Soviet Olympic gymnastics teams used to spend months in applying hypnosis techniques (which they termed mental imagery training) before stepping on the gymnastics floor. There is even evidence that imagining using muscles can help strengthen them! Therefore, I suggest to athletes that they rehearse their sport in their minds daily.
What Would My Coach Say?
As part of the mental rehearsal, athletes also can imagine talking with an inner coach who can give them feedback regarding their imagined performance and how they might improve. The coach can be their real-life coach or even a famous professional coach. Time and again, my patients have reported that their imagined coaches have provided insights of which they had not been consciously aware. These insights originate from their subconscious, and then are brought into awareness through this hypnotic method.
Many of my patients have reported that their athletic success has improved significantly as a result of their use of hypnosis. Among my patients, some of them have used hypnosis to reach state level or national US high school baseball, basketball, golf, gymnastics, and lacrosse competitions. A few even reached the world Irish Dancing competitions.
Take Home Message
Since outstanding athletic performance depends on enhanced mental abilities, hypnosis can be a remarkably effective and efficient tool to achieve this goal.
About Center Point Medicine
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