Why self-hypnosis is a viable training tool for athletes

March 30, 2019


Athletes and their strength/conditioning coaches have always been open to trying new concepts to maximize athletic performance. Mental training has long been a valuable tool that athletes have utilized. There's a variation of mental training that strength/conditioning coaches should consider for some of their athletes: Self-Hypnosis.

Self-hypnosis is a state of heightened awareness and relaxation that is self-induced. It can used by athletes as a stress management technique, a way to build laser focus, and even a way to accelerate rehab.

In an article on the Peak Performance website, Dr. Costas Karageorghis, a leader in sport psychology who has written articles extensively in the field of sport and exercise psychology, explains how Self-Hypnosis works.

“Mental imagery is the process by which we create or recreate experiences in the mind using information stored in our memory,” Dr. Karageorghis writes. “Structured imagery is aided by a vivid imagination, and the more control athletes have over their imagination, the more they are able to control their performance.

Mental imagery is the process by which we create or recreate experiences in the mind using information stored in our memory. Structured imagery is aided by a vivid imagination, and the more control athletes have over their imagination, the more they are able to control their performance.”

Dr. Karageorghis says “Research shows the more clearly you are able to experience mental images and the more accurately you can control your imagined movements, the more likely you are to translate the images into superior performance.”

It's been known for a long time that athletes who practice positive self-talk have an advantage over those athletes who are spiraling with self-doubt and negative thoughts. An article on the topic of Self-Hypnosis on the Hypnosis Network website, written by Jack Singer, Ph.D., points out that Self-Hypnosis has a tremendous advantage over other methods of enabling athletes to modify their thinking and behavior during pressure situations of a game.

The athlete is trained to focus his/her concentration in such a way that they will not be distracted by negative thoughts.On the contrary, only positive thoughts and images will occur.

“Sports hypnosis experts, like myself, have taught hypnotic techniques to athletes in literally all sports, to enhance such important dynamics as intensity, focus, consistency, concentration, mental toughness and anxiety control,” Dr. Singer writes.

Dr. Karageorghis often uses Self-Hypnosis with imagery. He gets athletes to relax using self-hypnosis, and then he works with the athlete to transition into sport-specific imagery.

Dr. Karageorghis writes: “Imagery has the effect of priming muscles for subsequent physical action, and this clearly has potential benefits for the performance of many sports skills. It is also evident that the neural impulses passed from the brain to the muscular system during imagery may be retained in memory almost as if the movement had actually occurred. The implication of this is that physical skills may be improved even during periods of injury when physical practice is not possible. Moreover, there is growing evidence to suggest that a combination of imagery and relaxation can accelerate the rehabilitation process following injury.”

An article on mindtosucceed.com provides instructions for two types of Self-Hypnosis that seem appropriate for athletes:

1. Stare at a spot on the ceiling and keep from blinking as long as possible

  1. Concentrate on your breathing for a few moments to center yourself

  2. Take a long deep breath and then exhale slowly and as you do mentally say: "Deeeeeep Noooooowwwwww" (deep now). Repeat this step three times with your eyes open and staring at the same spot.

  3. Close your eyes on the third exhale as you say the words "DEEEEP NOOOOOWWWWW"

  4. Use your favorite self hypnosis techniques for deepening

  5. Apply self-help hypnosis techniques

  6. Come out


2. The See, Hear, Feel, Induction

  1. Stare at something in front of you. Notice what you see, the colors and the light

  2. Notice what you hear - the tempo, the volume and the character of the sound

  3. Notice what you feel - the temperature, the texture of your clothes, your breathing

  4. Repeat the cycle twice more. See -hear-feel

  5. Use your favorite self hypnosis techniques for deepening

  6. Apply self hypnosis technique

  7. Come Out


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