What goes on in your mind during your workout? During your pivotal game that could take you to the finals? Is your mind blank? The answer is probably not. You may not consciously know it, but you practice self-talk on a daily basis.
What is self talk you ask? It is the practice of conversing with yourself. It happens in your mind and it has a significant relationship with sports performance.
What are you telling yourself everyday? What is that little voice in your head saying when you miss a shot or trip and fall? Are you shooting yourself down or encouraging yourself to keep going?
Research shows that getting a handle on your self-talk can help you significantly in your everyday life, developing you into a better person as well as athlete. It is positive self talk that is at the heart of mindfulness, while negative self talk can be one of the biggest reasons for performance anxiety and pre-performance jitters.
In sports psychology, the goal is to replace the negative self talk with more positive messages. For example, a basketball player shooting free throws who tells himself, “I’m not going to make this basket” will need to practice replacing that negative statement with “I’m going to make this shot”. While this may not seem like it can work, over time and with repetition, an athlete can develop a new habit of instinctively thinking positive statements and expect a more positive outcome. It is this psychology and connection between words that is the ultimate goal of this technique.
Research supports the claim that an athlete who continually practices positive self talk will improve his or her sports performance by keeping them relaxed and focused, preparing them to combat anything that is thrown at them during the competition. Positive self talk will encourage the mind to persuade your body to keep going. During competitions, difficult situations may arise and the ability to tune your mind into focusing on positivity will increase motivation and in turn, your willingness to exert yourself which leads to increasing your performance.
In sports, it is not enough just to be agile and strong. The mind also plays a key role in getting you into the winning zone. So next time you’re competing, remember, your body hears everything your mind says.