Visualization refers to the usage of all body senses like touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing. It is the use of the imagination through pictures or mental imagery to create visions of what we want in our lives and how to make them happen. Along with focus and emotions, it becomes a powerful, creative tool that helps us achieve what we want in life. Hence visualization in sports psychology is very important.
Visualization is one of the primary techniques used in sports psychology. I am a big believer in the phrase, “What happens here, is the result of what would happen there.”
In simple terms, this means your performance is often the result of what’s happening inside your head, or more specifically the movies and soundtracks playing inside your head.
Neural Connection Behind Visualization
Visualization or mental imagery works because when you imagine yourself performing perfectly and doing exactly what you want, you physiologically create neural patterns in your brain so that the action feels familiar when you go to perform it. The thought can stimulate the nervous system in the same way as the actual event does. Performing or rehearsing an event in the mind trains it and creates the neural patterns to teach our muscles to do exactly what we want them to do.
Visualization as a technique in Sports Psychology
Using it as a technique in sports psychology invariably results in much better performance and outcome. It can bring about self-improvement, maintain good health, helps you perform well in sports and accomplish your goals in life.
In sports, mental imagery is often used by athletes to improve their skills by picturing the achievement of a specific feat, such as hitting or shooting a ball, skiing a hill, swimming or running a race, among other things.
How to visualize
1. Go somewhere quiet & private place, where you won’t get disturbed.
2. Close your eyes & think of the good mood, behavior or skill you want to acquire.
Take several deep breaths & relax.
3. Visualize the object or situation desire in your mind as clearly & with as many details as you can (using all your senses like touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing).
4. Add emotions, feelings and your senses to your vision.
5. Practice it at least twice a day for about 10 to 15 minutes each day.
6. Persevere until you succeed.
7. Maintain positive thoughts & a good attitude throughout.
Elements of Visualization
Benefits of Visualization
When you visualize properly, your brain produces Alpha-Waves. These waves are incredibly good for you and when your brain produces them, you experience increased relaxation, focus & pleasure and reduce pain, stress & anxiety.
You access a higher quality of thought because when you’re in Alpha-Waves. You access a higher quality of thought, far away from the often confused stressing of Beta-Waves. After a few days of consciously accessing Alpha, you’ll notice a “bird’s eye view” of all your problems, goals & ideas. You’ll be in a much better-informed position to take action on them, too. You’ll just feel more “in tune” or “being in the flow” with what to do. And less bothered about “what could go wrong”.
Visualization increases confidence
The more confident you are, the more opportunities you see & take, and the more success you’ll experience.
It’s good for the soul because when you vividly imagine living your dream life, you do yourself a great favor. You replace fear & conformism with possibility & desire. You catch a glimpse of yourself performing at your best; achieving your full potential. You’ll feel replenished, with increased energy and a sense of purpose.
Visualization increase focus and desire because the more visualize, the more focused you’ll be, and the more desire you’ll develop for making the fruition of your goals. Try visualization for a few weeks. Then, notice how much more driven and productive you are.
You get solutions to your problems because when you visualize, you’ll get ideas & hunches to help you overcome your challenges. By imaging vividly what to do, you’ll experience insight which helps to get you back on track when you encounter roadblocks on the path to success.
You’ll improve your self-image because impressing successful images on your subconscious DOES improve your self-image. Which results in feeling happier, more capable, and more confident.
You can “Trick” your Subconscious mind because one of the benefits discovered by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, in the classic book Psycho-Cybernetics. He noted that “Your subconscious cannot tell the difference between a real memory, and vividly imagined visualization. This is the just about the greatest “Trick” you can ever play on yourself.
Some Interesting Facts
In the 1976 Olympics, the Russians were accused of cheating. They were winning gold medals in nearly every event, and at an unprecedented number. The rest of the world was left baffled at how they could pass drugs tests and still excel at such a high level. The pressure on the Russians became so pronounced that they had to confess.
What was the big secret that the Russians were hiding from the rest of the world? You guessed it right. VISUALIZATION!
The Russians were willing to try anything new in order to win. It didn’t matter to them if it seemed too strange_ all that mattered was that it worked. The more you visualize, the better it works. What the Russians revealed was that in their controlled studies of weightlifters power is supposed to be very physical, and not mental.
You’re supposed to work out hard, train every day, and build muscle in order to lift heavier weights. Test results showed that the more they visualized their performance in detail, the better they did. The results were astonishing. Basically, the more that the athletes visualized, the better they performed. The visualization craze in the sports world was then born.
Hey, Remember This!
You don’t have to be an elite athlete to benefit from visualization in sports psychology. Whether you’re a student, business person, parent, visualization will keep you tethered to your goal and increase your chances of achieving it. The power of visualization is available to all people. Visualization does not guarantee success. It also does not replace hard work and practice. But when combined with diligent effort, it is a powerful way to achieve positive, behavioral change and create the life you desire.
By: Karanbir Singh, Sports Psychologist (Army Sports Institute, Pune)
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