When you take 20 athletes of equal ability and give ten of them mental training, the ten with mental training will outperform the others every time. Whether you’re an athlete in competition, a health enthusiast, or new to sport and fitness, Sport Psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus shares how professional athletes mentally train to maximize results—and how you can apply these insights to your life. Read on to empower yourself to take control of your mind, overcome fear and doubt, and realize your true potential.
Have you ever had a subpar performance or skipped training altogether because you just weren’t feeling up to it? A bad mood or negative emotions can interfere with your performance. Some people believe that it’s one of those uncontrollable psychological factors. I’m here to tell you that this is a false notion. Professional athletes have a training and competition schedule they must adhere to and they do not have the luxury to say “I’m not feeling up for it today”. How do they learn to control their moods? This article offers three quick mood management techniques to help you take control of your mood so that you can stick with your performance goals.
Before we dive into the mood management techniques, it’s important to understand the specific mood states correlated with peak performance. Please understand that there isn’t one ideal mood for everyone. You may find that you perform your best when happy and excited while a close training friend performs best when relaxed and calm. That said there are some common findingsKarageorghis, C.I. & Terry P.C. (2011), Inside Sport Psychology. Champaign IL, Human Kinetics.:
- Vigor, characterized by mental power, energy, vitality, and intensity, tends to improve performance
- Confusion and fatigue tend to reduce performance
- Anger and tension have an inverted-U relationship with performance, meaning that as either one rises, performance improves up to a peak point, after which further elevations in anger and/or tension can be detrimental on performance.
To take a quick moment to focus on anger and tension, both supposedly negative moods can raise your performance. Up to a certain level, anger can be channeled into determination and tension helps the body to be ready for the upcoming activity. However too much anger can be a hurtful mental distraction and too much tension can interrupt muscular flow and coordination.
Back to the three mood management techniques:
1. Mood music.
Music is one of the most efficient ways to elicit a specific mood for performance. Experiment with different lyrics, melodies, harmonies, dynamics, and rhythms to find the songs that create your chosen mood. Then, instead of waiting to need the music to change your negative/unwanted mood to a positive and performance-enhancing one, be proactive and listen to the song ahead of time. Play it on the way to the gym or while you’re getting dressed. Play it as soon as you wake up in the morning so that you wake up on the right side of the bed. Play it as soon a your training begins to wind down to place you in an optimal post-performance mood. In other words, just as music can be used to manipulate your mood during training, it can also be used pre and post-performance.
2. Pep talks.
In sport, pep talks are speeches that coaches, team managers, or captains use to motivate, inspire, unite, and bring the current task into focus. You can give yourself your own pep talk but be sure to have an optimal prepared by following these guidelines. First, clearly outline your intention for the upcoming training and competitive session. State your goals and acknowledge at least one skillset you 100% belief you have to achieve it. Second, emphasize past performance accomplishments to bring success back to the forefront of your mind, proving to you that you are strong, powerful, energetic, and capable.
No matter how introverted you are, we all have an innate need for connection. When experiencing a mood that is not conducive for high performance, take 5 to 10 minutes to affiliate and communicate with others who can show empathy, meaning they have either felt the way you currently feel or can at least see things from your perspective. You may want a friend to just listen and be a sounding board. You may want to socialize as a way to dissociate from the stresses that brought about your negative mood. Either way, socializing can provide a quick and valuable boost of energy as well as perceived cohesion – both powerfully effective in creating a high performance mood.
You now have three practical mood management techniques to use to get you in your best mood for high performance. Take a moment and choose the one technique you feel will help you the most. Then take another few moments and prepare. If you choose music, spent the necessary time to create your playlist and remember to be proactive. If you choose pep talk, grab a pen and paper and write down or verbally record your pep talk so that it comes easier to you when you use it. If you believe socializing is your best mood management technique, choose one to three people you can reach out to in time of need. Then, just like the professional athletes who must stay committed to their sport regardless of how they feel, you too can stay committed to your training.