In recent years mental training has become increasingly important for the task of improving different kinds of skills. The term "mind over matter" comes to mind, and the magic behind it all is as simple as daring to direct our thoughts in the right direction.
Five of the main aspects of effective mental training are relaxation, visualization, mental rehearsal, focusing and positive affirmation.
Relaxation: Whenever possible, progressive muscle relaxation should be used as a preliminary to both mental rehearsal and focusing.
One good way to train relaxation is by simulation. You sit or lie in a relaxed position, do some deep breathing and then systematically and progressively tense and relax your entire body from the feet upwards.
The muscles can be tensed (10 seconds) and relaxed (20 seconds) sequentially through various parts of the body.This technique is without doubt one the most effective ever created to relieve tension; not only for sports but for life in general.
Visualization: What you see is what you get. There is strong scientific evidence that visualization can be used to dramatically improve your results in sports, public speaking, performing arts and anything else which involves practice.
There are many techniques for proper visualization and one first good step to start practicing is done by closing your eyes and making a screen as large as you can, almost like a movie screen in a cinema, breathing deeply and imaging that you enter into a room and paint a wall of white completely. Then proceed to imaging your desired goals, people, places and what you would like to be doing while achieving those goals. The more vivid, interacting and positive you picture yourself, the better.
Mental rehearsal: Rehearse in your mind in advance before an important event. This conditions your sub-conscious mind into expecting/anticipating what is going to happen and preparing yourself for the task to come. The objective is for your subconscious mind to think "Ah yes I recognise this situation, there is nothing to worry about, I know how to handle this". Mentally prepare yourself for any eventuality, this is known as 'What if...?' scenario setting. Plan in advance what you are going to do "if"... The more prepared you are in how to handle eventualities the easier will be to deal with unexpected situations because you will have much less to worry about and will be used at finding quick solutions in your mind.
Focusing: Training your conscious mind to focus your concentration like in meditation, has been used for centuries as a highly efficient way of clearing the mind of extraneous thoughts.
Put your goal constantly before you, and you will always have the energy to do something about it.
Positive affirmations: Always be positive, never negative. Soothe and reassure your sub-conscious, as you would an anxious child, with positive words and images, using phrases which describe the good things which are about to happen. Be positive and self encouraging at all times.
You can close the windows and darken your room, and you can open the windows and let light in. It is a matter of choice. Your mind is your room. Do you darken it or do you fill it with light? Affirm the positive, visualize the positive and expect the positive, and your life will change accordingly
- An introduction to Mental Training; Tom Redhead (NSRA National Pistol Coach).
- Progressive relaxation; Jacobson, E.
- Creative Visualization; Shakti Gawain.
- Silva UltraMind System; The Silva method.
- Mental focusing techniques; Brain skills.
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