Imagery and self-hypnosis is gaining popularity as a method for improved performance in sports stars and athletes. This is a therapy that is advocated by Dr Costas Karageorghis, a well known sports psychologist.
What is imagery?
Mental imagery is the visualisation of experiences using information that is stored in our subconscious. Whilst dreaming can be considered an unstructured form of imagery, structured imagery is where the subject can use their imagination to purposefully recreate specific images.
How imagery works
There has been research that has shown that visualisation of muscle movement can result in the electrical activity closely resembling that seen in actual muscle movement. By using imagery we are able to target specific muscles, essentially priming them for physical activity. This is especially useful during times when, for whatever reason, the subject is unable to train as normal. Some evidence suggests that using imagery in this way can actually improve rehabilitation and recovery rates amongst individuals.
What sort of imagery to use is very much dependent on the desired outcome for the subject. Various research has suggested that for learning or retaining particular sporting skills, it is best to use an external perspective i.e. that of a spectator. In contrast, using an internal perspective such as muscle priming is the likely to be the most effective way to psych yourself up for an event,
Imagery can be used in combination with other therapies and some research shows that it is considerably more effective that using it alone. One example is music, where research has shown that combining both imagery and listening to certain types of music can enhance performance.
What is self-hypnosis?
Self-hypnosis is a way of inducing a state of increased relaxation and awareness without any external assistance. If it is achieved correctly it will provide the ideal state of mind in which to practice imagery. It has been suggested that the effects of imagery can be even more potent when practised in a state induced by self-hypnosis.
Imagery is renowned for being an effective way to learn a skill, replacing traditional verbal or technical explanations. Examples of this within sport are:
Another technique that may be of use is the visualisation of your sporting hero. By imagining them in action and putting yourself in their shoes, you can explore the sensations they will be experiencing.
Imagery is also an excellent way of getting yourself prepared for a sporting event. It can boost your motivation and energy levels and psych you up.
Writing down your emotions and physical feelings after a particularly positive training session or event will be useful, as you can then apply them to both your imagery sessions and future situations where you require that ‘psyched up’ feeling.
Practical uses of self-hypnosis
Hypnosis has been used in sport for a long period of time, although it has previously been referred to as mental or autogenic training. In his book Hypnosport, Les Cunningham has stated that during the 1956 Melbourne Olympics the Russian team took a reported 11 hypnotists with them! Unfortunately as a rather taboo subject many great sporting champions did not speak out about the benefits that sports hypnosis gave them. Even today athletes use applied sports psychology which includes visualisation and relaxation techniques for performance boosting.
Self-hypnosis can improve the efficiency of imagery techniques. There are numerous self-hypnosis relaxation scripts online that you can either have someone read to you, or that you can record yourself reading and then play back. There is no limit to the benefits that imagery and self-hypnosis can bring you.
There is so much more to learn about the science of Sports Hypnosis. For further insight into this topic and many more, check out our tailored packages to see which one will best suit you.