Want to Be Mentally Tough? Do As the Top Athletes Do

Types of sports psychology

We greatly admire top sports athletes. Their talents, achievements, and perseverance are inspiring to fellow athletes and non-athletes alike. While innate talent is a jumping off point, the truly great heroes on and off the field know that the path to winning doesn’t start on game day. It begins in their mind. While their preparedness may gain momentum during the long hours of practice, self-defeating thoughts and patterns need to be silenced in conjunction with physical training.

Many elite athletes benefit from the care of a licensed clinical psychologist. While you may never be required to score a game-winning point or push your body to its utmost physical limits, a session with a licensed clinical psychologist may help you improve your mental toughness.

Calm Under Pressure: How to Make Good Choices When Stress Knocks You Down.

Stress is a common villain in health news. Too much makes you fat (cortisol release), hinders social relationships (makes you irritable), and over time has actually been linked to fatalities. The year 2000 saw in one of the first studies to find this correlation, the Yale School of Medicine discovered that chronic stress was linked to sudden death in men in the form of heart attacks.

Psychologists say there is some evidence that reframing stress as “good” can mitigate some, if not most, of its negative effects. To do this successfully, it means that the next time you find your palms sweating or your heart racing from too many expectations, you should instead act as though these symptoms are caused by excitement for what is happening. Do not think about your physical reaction as bad, but as good.

Training Your Thoughts Is Easier Said Than Done.

Can you stop thinking negative thoughts on your own? For many people, changing their habits is difficult; changing their thought patterns is even more so. Our thoughts are seen as compulsive. You think what you think in a reactionary way, which leads to people believing all of their thoughts are true.

A licensed clinical psychologist would tell you that you absolutely do have control over your thoughts, and that changing your thoughts can change your life. For example, in one six to nine month study psychotherapy focusing on patients with anxiety that 60% had improved their anxiety symptoms after learning to meditate. Meditating, of course, focuses on calming one’s thoughts and controlled breathing.

What Do Top Athletes Think About Sports Psychology?

One survey found that elite athletes who had seen a sports psychologist attributed that 50% of their superior performances were a result of improved mental strategy. The strategies that these specialized psychologists focus on first tackle a five part process known as mental imagery, which encompasses: cognitive-general; cognitive-specific; motivational-general arousal; motivational-specific; and motivational-general mastery. In conversation, a simplified version might be known as visualization.

Visualizing success, whether in a board room or on a playing field, helps a person believe it can be done. Just as a child may feel more comfortable going to a new place after they are told what will happen at each step of the way, we as human beings gain confidence from vividly imagining the steps we will take to increase our chances of success. A key part of this exercise is addressing possible pitfalls and making a plan to bypass them.

We find top sports athletes inspiring because of the challenges they have faced and overcome. While our own lives may not play out on such a visible scale, we can still take a few pointers from those who have pushed themselves to their utmost limits. It’s important to remember that success is never simply a result of the physical, but one’s mental capacities as well.

You may never have cause to seek out a licensed clinical psychologist. But do not discount the assistance one can provide. Every battle starts in your mind first; mastering one’s thought patterns is the first step on the path to success.

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