“Mind over Matter” – The Power of the Mind in Sports.

Mind over matter is one of the phrases you keep hearing from time to time as an athlete. I’m sure any athlete can attest to that. I remember one of my coaches telling me that for the very first time, it amped me up, and when I managed to push through the pain – I felt validated in my ego. So much to unpack here, but since this isn’t a therapy session, I’m going to highlight the actual importance of the phase and its meaning. So I hope you’re in for a ride…

…Sports is not just about physical ability, it is also a mental game. I’d say that the mind plays a critical role in determining a player’s success, and this concept of “mind over matter” is a fundamental principle of sports psychology. It refers to the idea that an athlete’s mental state and mindset can greatly influence their performance. In this article, we will delve into the power of the mind in sports and how it can impact an athlete’s success positively.

The Mind-Body Connection

In sports, the mind and body are closely interconnected. The mind sends signals to the body, and the body responds accordingly. For example, when an athlete is nervous or stressed, their heart rate and breathing may increase, leading to a decrease in physical performance. On the other hand, a positive and confident mindset can help athletes to perform at their best. So, how do you go about it, as an athlete, how do you develop a positive and confident mindset?

In the book “Ask and it is given by Jerry and Esther Hick” there’s a chapter that talks about moving up an emotional scale or set point. To make it understandable, when your body receives the signal from your brain that you’re stressed or nervous (which isn’t bad), your mind has picked up the information and labeled it as something “negative” for instance. With the given information your brain stores and sends the signal down to your body and your body then expresses the given emotion. Makes sense? Great!

The emotional scale gives us a range from 1 to 22, whereas 22 is the lowest expressed as fear, grief, depression, despair, and powerlessness. 1 being the highest positive point is expressed as joy, knowledge, empowerment, freedom, love, and appreciation. If you want to know more about the emotional scale and what is in between 1 to 22, I’d encourage you to go and purchase the book, I’m certain you’ll love it.

Anyway, going back to the question “how do develop a positive and confident mindset?“; as an athlete, you’d have to disregard what you’re seeing and be deliberate in “tricking” your mind to see a positive aspect. The human brain doesn’t know the difference between an illusion and reality, therefore, if you can mentally be enthusiastic, passionate, or optimistic – your brain will pick up the information and send the signal to your body. 

Mental Toughness

This correlates with mental toughness being a crucial factor in sports success. It refers to an athlete’s ability to remain focused and perform well under pressure. Mental toughness enables athletes to bounce back from setbacks, overcome obstacles, and maintain their performance even in adverse conditions. Mentally tough athletes are less likely to experience anxiety, stress, or burnout and are more likely to achieve their goals. It sounds so much easier than it is done, hence why practicing your mind is so important than just practicing your physical abilities. It starts with being exposed to the many possibilities that we have as human beings. I remember when I was five, I would watch Mike Tyson fight and imitate his fighting skills, now I never became a pro boxer, however; due to that exposure I always knew that I wanted to become successful in sports. Mental toughness goes beyond just being able to tune out the negatives and focus on one’s performance.

Its starting point is very important – what do you see before you get on the field, pitch, or gym? 

I’m going to give one or two techniques that have been extremely helpful to me. Both have been scientifically proven and tested to be of great benefit to athletes.

  • Visualization 

A visualisation is a powerful tool used by many athletes to improve their performance. It helps athletes to mentally prepare for their competition, build confidence, and increase their focus. This technique is done by imagining a desired outcome and performance, holding that image in your mind, and repeating it over and over again. Example: A football player imagines how he’s going to score from the penalty spot and repeats the action in his mind as to where he’s hitting the ball into the goal. 

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney said, “I lie in bed the night before the game and visualize myself scoring goals or doing well. You’re trying to put yourself in that moment and trying to prepare yourself” (Bailey, 2014).Rooney is an example of an elite athlete who uses the technique of visualization. This technique truly helps, and studies have shown it to be proven. A research study done by Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation compared regular athletes who went to the gym and those who just “carried out virtual workouts in their heads” (LeVan, 2009). He found a 30% increase in muscle for those who went to the gym and a 13.5% increase in muscle for those who did virtual workouts.

To circle it back, your body can only follow to places your mind has already been.

  •  Self-Talk

Self-talk is another important aspect of sports psychology. I’m referring to the inner dialogue you have with yourself, it can greatly impact your entire performance. Positive self-talk can increase confidence, motivation, and focus, while negative self-talk can lead to decreased performance and increased anxiety. As athletes, we should always focus on using positive self-talk to improve our mental state and maintain our focus during competition.

In conclusion, the power of the mind in sports cannot be overemphasized. The mind-body connection, mental toughness, visualization, and self-talk are all critical elements in determining an athlete’s success. By focusing on improving their mental game, athletes can and will most likely achieve their full potential and perform at their best, if they stick to the above information and implements it into their life. Mind over matter is a powerful principle that should not be ignored, then it has the potential to make a significant impact on any athlete’s performance and success.

If you’ve made it up until here and finished reading, I want to thank you for taking your time and reading this great piece of mine.

Thanks a lot and until next time

Your Lion 🙂