Hypnosis For Sports Performance – Research and Evidence
Last month I headed down to Bournemouth to attend a two day seminar on hypnosis for sports performance. And whilst I’ve helped many sports people with their performance, it’s always great to get new insights and discover new research and evidence about the effectiveness of incorporating hypnosis to enhance sports performance.
And, indeed, there is a wealth of research showing how you can enhance sports performance with hypnosis. I’ll be setting the ball rolling by covering a comprehensive review of the research further below, and plan to cover much, much more over the coming weeks.
The event happened to take place over the same weekend that Storm Ciara hit the UK with its high winds and heavy downpours, so Bournemouth certainly was a blustery location that weekend! I’m a big fan of Bournemouth and love wandering through the park with the squirrels and then down to the beach and along the pier. Whether it’s sunny or stormy, I could happily watch the sea for hours while drifting from thought to thought.
It was certainly a very enjoyable place to learn about sports hypnosis and its application for improving performance and I’m super excited to be able to add more research, evidence and strategies to help my sports performance clients.
And here I am enjoying a bit of sunshine and sea before the first morning of the seminar (it was blowing a gale at the time!)
It really was the calm before the storm because for the rest of the weekend it was all strong wind and heavy rain. I’m not sure that any photo can do justice to just how forceful and wild the sea was:
Whilst there were some huge waves on the Monday afterwards (which the surfers were lapping up!), I just enjoyed having some time to wander along the beach and pier and to enjoy being out and about along the coast:
On the way back to Cambridgeshire we stopped at this waterlogged place just down the road. For some reason not many people were making use of the benches that day! But the swans seemed to be loving it!
But enough about my little trip. If you are a looking to enhance your sports performance, then whether it’s football, basketball, athletics, body building or another sport, you’ll be wanting to know how you can perform better using hypnosis.
Hypnosis For Sports Performance
Now I already have a strong case history of successfully working with sports people, several of whom have shared their feedback in writing or in video about how our hypnotherapy sessions together helped them (and many others who preferred not to share their performance secrets!).
There have been football players (such as Laura), boxers (such as Simon), triathletes (such as Ashley, Sandie and Miranda) runners (such as Lauren), body builders (like Kate) and many others who have boosted confidence, reduced anxiety and improved sports performance. In addition to these awesome people, there have been cyclists, golfers, shooters, drivers, swimmers, horse riders and a whole other range of sports people that I’ve worked with. As a runner and exerciser myself, I love working with others to help them get their enjoyment and confidence back or to improve their performance in some way.
The hypnosis for sports performance weekend was a great opportunity to refresh and update my sports psychology and practice knowledge and skills ready for more sports improvement.
Amongst the many things we covered were effective goal setting, self-belief, managing intensity, use of self-talk, mental imagery and other cognitive strategies. There was also some pretty interesting research discussed about the potential for using hypnosis to increase your muscular strength. I’m going to cover some of these topics in future articles, but for now I want to concentrate on one particularly thorough review from 2016 that carried out a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of hypnosis for enhancing sports performance.
Enhancing Sports Performance With Hypnosis
In their 2016 paper entitled ‘Enhancing Sports Performance With Hypnosis: An Ode For Tiger Woods’, Milling and Randazzo carried out a review of sports hypnosis. They presented a comprehensive and methodological review of controlled and singe case design studies of the effectiveness of hypnosis for enhancing sports performance.
In their paper they describe some of the common psychological interventions used to enhance sports performance. These include visualisation (or mental rehearsal), learning to modify and direct self-talk during training and competition, arousal regulation (e.g. to decrease anxiety) and goal setting around improved performance. All of these approaches and interventions can certainly be beneficial for improving sports performance and for removing obstacles that could impinge upon performing well.
Milling and Randazzo found that ‘Hypnosis was shown to be effective for improving performance in a variety of sports, with the strongest support for enhancement of basketball, golf, soccer and badminton skills.’ They also concluded that there was preliminary evidence that hypnosis may be useful for enhancing performance in cricket and weight-lifting, as well as precision sports like archery and throwing accuracy.
Pretty awesome stuff if you want to improve your sports performance. And do keep in mind that this review was about enhancing sports performance because there are many other hypnosis interventions that can also help with other aspects of sports performance such as reducing anxiety and building confidence and self-belief.
Milling and Randazzo comment in their paper that their findings may suggest the possibility that hypnosis interventions may be of greater benefit to sports for which dexterity and co-ordination are required and of less benefit to sports that depend primarily on strength and endurance (based upon the papers reviewed in 2016). However, since they suggested that, subsequent research has suggested that hypnosis may be an important tool in increasing muscle strength (more on that another time).
And, in addition, Hamid, Abdoli &Shahroie in their 2018 paper (Efficacy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Positive Imagination of Success During Hypnotism on Athletic Performance) found that “Cognitive-behavioural therapy accompanied by the positive imagination of success during hypnosis significantly increased the athletic performance in the experimental group in three items of shoot to the target, fixed pass and moving pass” (more on this in a previous article: Sports Psychology: The Impact of Hypnosis on Athletic Performance, and you may also want to take a look at Reducing Anxiety in Sport and Increasing Performance).
Taking the Milling & Randazzo 2016 review as a starting point means that hypnosis has a strong argument for helping to enhance sports performance in basketball, golf, soccer and badminton, as well as there being preliminary evidence for the use of hypnosis for enhancing performance in cricket, weight lifting and precision sports like archery. And, of course, the methods used during hypnosis for sports performance are available and useable to help you in your own field.
Certainly during my own marathons and high intensity training, I have called upon many psychological techniques, both with and without formal hypnosis, to help me to perform to the best of my ability. Just drawing upon the example of long distance running, completing a marathon requires motivation and persistence to get the training done, keep intensity levels at the right level on the day and being able to orchestrate your cognitions during the race itself (particularly when it gets to the later stages). There are many hypnosis and sports psychology strategies that can help with every aspect of these.
And high intensity bootcamp certainly requires the ability to stop your mind giving up before your body during a high effort workload.
Based upon the existing and emerging evidence, it does suggest that hypnosis is a beneficial tool to help you enhance sporting performance. As most sports people would probably agree, sports psychology is way up there in terms of importance with physical training. Hypnosis certainly can help you overcome sports anxiety, deal with previous experiences, boost confidence and remove obstacles that may have been hindering your performance. And the evidence supporting hypnosis as an effective intervention for enhancing performance suggests that more than just helping you perform as well as you know you can, it can actually help you perform even better at what you do.
To your success,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
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Milling, L.S. and Randazzo, E.S., 2016. Enhancing sports performance with hypnosis: An ode for Tiger Woods. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 3(1), p.45.
Hamid N , Abdoli R, Shahroie A. Efficacy of Cognitive Behavior Therapy with Positive Imagination of Success During Hypnotism on Athletic Performance, Hormozgan Med J. 2018 ; 22(4):e8648