Reducing Anxiety in Sport and Increasing Performance
Ahh Facebook memories, always there to remind me what I was doing on a particular day over the years (or at least those bits of my life I stick on there). Today I was reminded that on this day two years ago I was training for a road marathon and, judging by my appearance (have a look below), it was pretty hot that summer too!
When I used to line up at the start of a race, I would always have that curious blend of nervousness and excitement flowing through me. At the start, especially in the hanging around quite a bit waiting to get going stage, there’s that balance to be found in having enough intensity and energy to perform to your best, yet not too much so that it impairs what you do. You don’t want to be throwing up, freaking out or burning up all your energy before you even take a step.
The other day I had a great update from a triathlete I was working with as she conquered her open water fears and absolutely smashed her race. Awesome stuff!
And only just recently a clinical trial showed how mindfulness based techniques can help increase athletic performance and reduce sports anxiety in athletes.
(That’s right…if I looked that knackered after a training run I think we can all imagine what sort of state I might have been in after the actual race!! Perhaps my hip going askew over the last eighteen months was my body’s way of suggesting I should find something else to do instead!)
Happily, Facebook also reminded me that I did it all for a good cause:
Reducing Anxiety in Sport
Enough reminiscing and back to how to reduce anxiety in sport and improve sports performance.
A fairly recent piece of research has shown that mindfulness based approaches are an effective intervention to increase athletic performance and reduce sports anxiety in athletes.
The clinical trial, conducted at Iran University with a group of thirty one students found that the mindfulness approach significantly increased the performance of basketball playing athletes and decreased avoidance and sports anxiety. The researchers defined mindfulness as “the acceptance and awareness of thoughts, emotions, physical senses, and external experiences at the present time without judging and trying to control and suppress them. Such a view helps a person to accept the negative thoughts and unpleasant emotions without controlling or avoiding them.”
By learning to apply mindfulness techniques, the athletes were able to see negative thoughts as mere emotions and thoughts and just accept them. By accepting negative thoughts and emotions without trying to get rid of them, the athletes in the study experienced less negative emotions such as anxiety. Thus rather than controlling and trying to suppress negative thoughts and emotions, mindfulness can help to achieve acceptance and so reduce anxiety and increase performance.
All beneficial stuff for sports anxiety and for those who want to boost performance. And such techniques can be beneficially combined with other strategies such as reducing anxiety, visualisation and goal setting (and the benefits of hypnosis and mindfulness together are things I capture in one of my hypnosis downloads).
Of course such strategies and techniques will also help in many other situations where there is anxiety or where you want to perform to the best of your ability. It would include tests, exams and public speaking as well as sports and any other environment where it would be useful to reduce your anxiety.
So if you want to reduce sports anxiety and increase sports performance then the evidence suggests that this could well be the way to go.
In the meantime, I’m super pleased for my triathlete client and can’t wait to get the full insight on her success!
To your success,
Reducing Anxiety in Sport
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Reference: Dehghani, Mahmood & Delbar Saf, Azadeh & Vosoughi, Asghar & Tebbenouri, Giti & Ghazanfari Zarnagh, Hadi. (2018). Effectiveness of the mindfulness-acceptance-commitment-based approach on athletic performance and sports competition anxiety: a randomized clinical trial. Electronic Physician. 10. 6749-6755. 10.19082/6749.