What is Mental Training?
Mental training is preparing your mind for the best possible outcome. It is the act of thinking and planning for your next action, which can help you to push beyond your limits and succeed. It can improve your strategy in competitive environments, improve your confidence and focus, and allow you to work well under pressure.
Think of the Olympic and Paralympic athletes. They have physically trained in the traditional way to hone their skills to be able to reach this high level of competition, but they also have to mentally prepare (otherwise known as sports psychology) to be able to reach the top.
When you are competing, you have to be able to overcome the pressure of representing your country and have to pull yourself up when faced with strong competition. Like any skill, mental preparedness takes time to develop but that extra preparation can create that extra second of focus you need to succeed.
Why Do I Need to Train My Brain?
Mental training isn’t solely limited to sports, athletic performance, and other competitive endeavors. Think about:
- If you’ve ever seen someone who continually said, “I’m no good at this,” and they gave up and failed, even though you knew they had the potential to succeed.
- Any kid who kept saying, “I’m going to nail this,” and then shortly after, they accomplished near-impossible feats.
- If you have ever done a reflective practice, like meditation or yoga, and were able to be calm and productive afterward.
You can do mental preparation to become excellent at public speaking, advance your career path beyond your wildest dreams, or even simply improve your overall confidence in daily life.
How to Begin Mental Training.
Since everyone’s minds are unique, different techniques will work for different people. Start with one or two of these techniques that resonate best with you, but don’t be afraid to try different styles to expand your potential.
Some people use meditation as a way to empty their minds, while others use it to focus on a specific train of thought.
Either way, start by sitting or lying down comfortably with your eyes closed. Begin breathing deeply in through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. After a few breaths, let your breathing return to normal and focus on allowing your body to relax, working from your toes to your head.
Return to focusing on your breathing, acknowledging thoughts and feelings as they arise but not dwelling on them. You will eventually reach a state of calm and restoration that acts as a mental reset. The more regularly you do this, you will soon be able to enter this state quickly and easily, which can be helpful in higher-stress situations.
Starting a meditation practice on your own may be tricky, but there are a handful of apps, YouTube videos, and other resources out there that can teach you and lead you through a guided meditation session.
This methodology focuses on creating a paradigm shift. Start by just noticing how you go about your day- are you complaining or complimenting? Do you say, “I can’t,” more than “I can”? When you think about the future, are you more optimistic or pessimistic?
Just being aware of how you go through the day is the first step to change. From there, adjust your language to frame how you want your outcomes to look. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t snap my fingers,” try saying, “I am working on snapping my fingers and I know I will get it.” (True story- I now have a decent snap with my right hand and I am working on my left!)
One other way to work on reframing your mindset is to make a Ten Good Things list. Every day, write down ten good things. It could be as simple as you had a nice cup of tea to as big as you got to see a loved one for the first time in ten years. This might be difficult at first but will help to shift your mood overall in the long run.
Visualization and Goal Planning
These techniques go hand in hand. First, plan out what your goals are. These don’t have to be permanent goals but think about both short and long-term targets. Then, take time to think about what you want to achieve, how long it will take, and any steps you might need to accomplish your plan.
Second, close your eyes and visualize yourself accomplishing your goals. Picturing yourself at the finish line is a great motivator but go more in-depth than that. If you’re about to sing a tricky song in front of an audience, allow yourself to go positively through the entire experience, in as much detail as you can possibly imagine.
For a successful performance, envision yourself waiting backstage, then walking onstage in front of a large audience with bright lights. Imagine what it will feel and sound like, from the lights heating your hair to the sound of your shoes on the floor. Then, envision yourself nailing your song and enjoying the experience until your performance is over and you leave the stage.
By mentally visualizing a successful performance, you are showing your brain that you have already done a great job beforehand, and you simply can repeat what you’ve done before. When the day comes, you’ll feel more confident and you’ll have a better, more enjoyable performance overall.
Sometimes, you may need a bit of help with your mental training, and this is where a professional hypnotist comes in.
“Hypnosis… is about understanding that your beliefs become your experience. If you believe that you can’t do something, then you are probably right. If you believe that you can, then you are also probably right. Because we create our reality through the ideas, the thoughts, and the things we tell ourselves.” (Zach Pincince)
A hypnotist can help you to overcome disempowering beliefs and to encourage you to become the best version of yourself. The only catch is, you have to genuinely want to change for yourself.
You might have heard about someone who tried hypnosis to quit smoking, only for them to relapse a few months later. Oftentimes, this isn’t because the hypnotherapy wasn’t effective, but rather that the smoker truly didn’t want to stop. They went for hypnosis because their doctor told them they needed to quit or because their spouse kept nagging them to go, not because they genuinely wanted it for themselves.
Same thing with success and self-confidence. If you genuinely desire self-improvement, then your hypnosis mental training will help you to achieve that. You truly have to want it, to be able to accomplish your goals.
Does mental training actually work?
The short answer is yes it does, especially when you combine mental with physical training.
There was a study done that tested if mental training was effective, using basic putting techniques. The four groups involved in the study were the control group which didn’t do any practice, the purely physical practice group, the purely mental practice group, and a group that combined mental and physical practice.
As expected, the group who didn’t practice didn’t improve very much overall. However, it was fascinating to see the results of the combined group as compared to the purely physical practice group. On the first test, the improvements of the two groups were similar, but by the final test, the combined practice type was putting the best out of all the groups.
(Interestingly enough, while it wasn’t as drastic as the physical or combined practice groups, the group that solely did mental skills practice improved more than the control group, even though they didn’t physically practice putting the ball.)
That difference between the purely physical and the combined practice groups is significant enough that could end up being the one-point difference between making it to the Olympics and being stopped at the trials.
The connection between mental health and training.
One thing to note is that mental training and mental health are separate things, but they are intrinsically linked. If your mental health declines, then it is most likely that you’ll see a decrease in success from your mental training. However, by actively doing mental strength training, you are likely to improve your mental health as well, as many of the techniques are similar between the two!
To try mental training, challenge yourself to do just ten minutes of one of the above techniques a day for 2 weeks. See if you notice a difference- and if you do, be sure to tell us about your experience at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Written by Kayla Willsey