Playing Mind Games

The world of sport is no longer full of lager louts and thuggish brutes trying to knock each other’s lights out. Modern sport is more nuanced and enlightened than simply hoofing a soccer ball up-field with teams, players and individuals now calling on many disciplines to aid their success. A practice gaining in popularity amongst sports stars the world over is visualisation - something that golfers have known about since the 1970s.

Think Positive Thoughts & Then Go For It.

“Generally speaking,” says sports medicine expert Elizabeth Quinn, “visualisation is the process of creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel.”

She adds that guided imagery, mental rehearsal or other such techniques can maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of your training.

Six-time major winner Nick Faldo is a firm believer in visualisation. The golfer calls it “the most powerful thing we have”. Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and current world number one Jordan Spieth all use various forms or techniques of visualisation to get the best out of their game.

But the practice is not the sole preserve of golfers. Sporting icons like Mohammad Ali and Pele swear by it and, more recently, England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has also declared himself a believer. “I lie in bed the night before the game and visualise myself scoring goals or doing well,” he once revealed. “You're trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself.”

Vivid imagery helps an athlete to prepare mentally, by improving their confidence, focus, clarity and speed of thought. It helps them prepare for any situation,” says sports psychologist Dr Steve Bull in The Telegraph. “The more vivid the mental image, the more effectively your brain primes your muscles to complete the same physical and technical action in a real game.”

This doesn’t mean you can sit on the couch and daydream of a better life, a fatter increase or a slimmer waistline. But it does mean that you can take a leaf out of the sporting world and put your mind towards making a positive difference in your life. As Psychology Today notes, “Studies now show that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow.”

So next time you want to knock it out of the park, take a deep breath, relax and be positive and watch as your vision becomes a reality.