5 Ways to Apply Sports Psychology to Your Daily Life
Let’s be honest; boxing is about so much more than throwing the perfect punch. As with any sport, boxing starts on the inside, at the psychological level. The mental skills you develop in the ring can be applied to all areas of your daily life. This is where sports psychology comes in.
Sports psychology is the study of how thoughts and behavior influence athletic performance, and vice versa. It helps athletes improve performance and increase motivation. It utilizes sports and training to help individuals enhance their lives and well-being. Here are five ways you can apply the psychology of sport to your everyday life to Become Unstoppable:
1. Live More Mindfully
When your mind is bombarded with stress and responsibilities, it can be hard to perform daily functions. You may be in the ring training, but your mind is focused on the bills you have to pay or the dishes that need cleaning. When this happens, your mind and body are experiencing two different things. This takes the focus, learning, and benefit out of the present task.
Sports psychology stresses mindfulness in sport and exercise, which is a great concept to bring into your daily life. Mindfulness is the practice of creating full mental awareness, so that the mind is attentive to what is happening, what you’re doing and what is surrounding it. This translates into periods of physical activity by contributing to performance enhancement and honing mental skills.
The important skill of mindfulness can be developed through regular mindfulness meditation. Meditation is an ancient practice that can promote mental wellness, whether the practitioner is an elite athlete, a busy student striving toward their bachelor's degree or a busy mom who is trying to find mental clarity while prioritizing her health and well-being. There is no one right way to engage in mindfulness meditation, but in general, here is how it works:
- Sit or lie down in a position that is most comfortable for you.
- Close your eyes, and focus on your breathing.
- Deeply and slowly inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth.
- Notice your breathing, listen to your heartbeat, feel the relaxation of your muscles.
- The goal is to clear your mind and keep it focused on your body and breathing.
- When your mind wanders, don’t fight the thoughts. Simply acknowledge them, then slowly bring your mind back into the present moment.
- Practice this exercise for 10 minutes a day.
- Try to bring the skills you develop through your daily meditation into your everyday life.
Mindfulness has been shown to have tremendous benefits for physical and mental well-being. A clear mind will not only help you to bring your best self into the ring, but it will be advantageous in all aspects of your life.
2. Develop Better Concentration
Along with becoming more mindful, the psychology of sport is designed to help you to develop better concentration, both when engaging in sport and exercise and the time you spend outside the ring. You might be thinking, “Isn’t mindfulness and concentration the same thing?” Mindfulness and concentration are distinctly different functions. However, both work together to develop awareness and attention, bolstering athletic performance overall.
Mindfulness develops an awareness of the entire moment. Concentration, on the other hand, helps you to narrow your focus to a particular task within that moment.
Concentration is a crucial mental skill to develop. It can help you tune out distractions at work, at school, or in the boxing studio so you can focus on what needs to be done.
Here are some simple and effective ways you can improve your concentration:
- Focus on one thing at a time - you should always dedicate your attention to one thing at a time. Rather than doing multiple things satisfactorily, do one thing really well.
- Make a prioritized “to-do” list - to fit training, sport and exercise into a busy schedule, contenders must learn organization and time-management skills. The easiest way to do this is to look at short-term goals and create a to-do list. You have a lot of responsibilities, but your health and well-being should always top the list.
- Set a time frame to get a specific task done - it's great to have long-term goals, but you'll never reach them without a specific action plan in place. Break your long-term goals into smaller, more manageable short-term goals with a set deadline.
- Take a break when you need it - the best athletes and coaches know that it's not only about digging deep; it's also about knowing when you need to take a break and allow for rest and regeneration.
- Eliminate distractions - close Facebook and put that phone away; no amount of scrolling is going to improve your athletic performance!
3. Walk with Confidence
A sports psychology mindset can help you to build self-confidence and enhance your athletic performance. It’s been long established that your beliefs direct your actions. If confidence is a set of beliefs about your abilities, then it’s no surprise that it can lead to higher performance and better mental health.
It may seem like you have no control over your level of confidence, but in truth, confidence is something you can work to develop. Here are some simple things you can do to start feeling more confident today:
- Use visualization - visualization is one of the most powerful mental skills you can possess. It can help you to reflect on times when you felt confident, successful, and in control.
- Practice positive self-talk - positive self-talk challenges you to eliminate negative thoughts, like "I'll never be good at this" and replace them with a positive inner-narrative, such as "With hard work, I'll get better at this."
- Get inspired by the good qualities of others - look to your favorite athletes and coaches, teachers and mentors, family members and friends. What features and actions do they take that you'd like to emulate?
- Exercise regularly - regular physical activity has proven positive impacts on one's mental health. This is largely in relation to the happy hormones-- officially known as endorphings-- that are released during periods of physical activity.
- Use criticism and mistakes as a means of learning, rather than taking it to heart - taking criticism as an opportunity to improve is closely aligned with practicing positive self-talk. Listen to your coach and know that they're trying to help you work better; your accomplishments bring them joy.
4. Take the Pressure Off
There’s no denying that practicing sports comes with a lot of pressure, especially when you're focusing on performance enhancement in your training. Whether you’re a seasoned contender constantly striving for the win or an average Joe who simply wants to gain the benefits of training, the pressure is abounding. Then again, isn’t pressure everywhere? Life is full of high-stakes situations that has intense implications for one's mental and emotional well-being.
We all need to learn how to navigate through high-pressure circumstances. Visualization is a common technique used in sports psychology that helps to develop the proper skills to perform well under pressure.
What happens when you’re under immense pressure? Stress levels skyrocket, negative thoughts begin to creep in, and you start to consider every possible thing that could go wrong. By closing your eyes and visualizing yourself accomplishing an action, the task becomes much more “doable.”
Here are some techniques to help you practice visualization for success under pressure:
- First, choose an upcoming situation (or something you experience daily) that you find stressful. This is what you will work with through your visualization practice.
- Visualize yourself in vivid detail successfully performing that task.
- As if you are watching yourself from the outside, go through the situation step by step and allow the story to play out the way you hope it will in real life.
- Repeat this exercise for 10-20 minutes per day.
- This exercise should make you feel more confident going into the situation in real time.
5. Work on YOU From the Inside Out
Sports are as much for the mind as they are for the body. How many days do you have to turn up the volume on the motivation button just to get yourself to the studio? How often do you have to overcome negative thoughts and tell yourself you CAN when your mind says you CAN’T?
The core of sports psychology is utilizing athletics to overcome negative feelings and manage your mindset. Sometimes, the game itself even brings out deeply buried emotions that desperately need attention.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Stay emotionally well by caring for your mind and soul. Take a rest when needed, manage your stress, take a walk through nature, paint, volunteer; whatever makes you happy, be sure to work it into your schedule.
If you find yourself struggling with your mental well-being, whether as a contender or outside of your performance enhancement efforts, don't hesitate to reach out for health. There's no shame in working with a psychologist to help you improve your mental and emotional health. You can even find a clinical sports psychologist who works with athletes and sports teams who specialize in performance psychology. Incorporating various facets of sports medicine into your training can help you Become Unstoppable.