Archive | March, 2012

Sporting Mind Games

30 Mar

If you follow or play sport, you will have heard on numerous occasions that sport is all in the mind.

Now that spring is here and the summer is fast approaching, our summer sports take centre stage. Sports such as Tennis at Wimbledon, Cricket at Lords, and this year, the Olympics come to town. These are all sporting events that really show up mental strength or mental fragility. How many times at Wimbledon do we see the player with the most confidence or mental toughness winning through a long 5 set match? How many times do we see the batsman who keeps their concentration the best, go on to put together big scores for their cricket team? How many times do we see athletes visualising in their minds their success? S

So how much of sport is really played in the mind? And to what extent can we train our minds to do better at our chosen sport?

Jonathon Trott

Jonathon Trott is well known for doing his own thing, and not getting distracted

How much is in the mind?

The difference at the highest level in sport often comes down to making the right decisions at the right time. Everyone has the necessary skill, the difference is those decisions a sportsman makes under the stress of the situation. Those with the right mindset often make the right decisions based on the situation they find themselves in, those who aren’t quite as focused, or as mentally tough, start to make decisions that could have been better.

In stressful situations, Tennis players start to make rash decisions, they go for shots that simply they shouldn’t have gone for or and don’t have the confidence to play the shot they know they should have. The greats appear to keep making right decisions in these situations – and that is what can determine if they go on to win a Grand Slam like Wimbledon.

Cricket is an interesting sport, especially at Test level. Here you see individual competitions all the time between the batsman and the situation they find themselves in. Often commentators get a feeling for when a wicket will be lost, and this is usually due to the batsman being under some form of extreme pressure. Such as not scoring runs for a while, or needing to score runs quickly if they want to win. It is these situations that more often than not lead to the batsman then making a rash decision and effectively “giving their wicket away”.

So what can a sportsman do to strengthen their mind?

Hypnosis for the sporting mind

Hypnosis in sport is individually designed to meet the need of that athlete and their particular sport, and the situations they may find themselves in. Though hypnosis and techniques are often associated with elite athletes, the fact is these techniques work for any amateur sportsmen too.

Here is a list of some of the areas hypnosis can help a sportsman improve:

  • Increased concentration
  • Control internal dialogue
  • Decrease awareness of unimportant external stimuli
  • Enhance sensory awareness and muscle control
  • Control anxiety, anger and emotionality
  • Enhance motivation and enthusiasm
  • Increase energy levels
  • Improve feelings of invigoration and endurance
  • Enhance performance skill
  • Increase confidence and self efficacy
  • Control perception of time and focus on the present experience
  • Resolution of unconscious blocks or conflicts
  • Management of discomfort
  • Muscle memory
  • Deliver mental strength

Using hypnosis, performance can be improved by considering:

  • Pre-performance attitude
  • Performance attitude
  • Post performance attitude

Pre-performance attitude

This helps an athlete train hard, to work hard on their skills and to focus their energy on improvement. In addition, it can address big game nerves, anxieties and remove negative self fulfilling prophecies of failure.

Performance attitude

A good strong mental attitude while competiting helps an athlete focus; to get the maximum out of their skills; to put to effect all those hours of training; to block out any distractions and to help make the right decisions at the right time.

Post performance attitude

This is all about reflection and includes identifying what went right; areas you performed well in and areas to focus on. It is important to ensure that no matter the result, positives are always taken away from the competition and things learnt to help improve for next time.

Hypnosis approaches

A typical hypnotherapy approach is the inner game. This is all about mental practice and attitude, helping to mentally prepare and handle the pressures of competition. Using this approach, the athlete mentally visualises executing precise motor skills under pressure, at the same time, they visualise a physical experience in their bodies, which strengthens neural patterns. This approach is evident when you want a high jump competitor. You almost always see these athletes going through the motions of what they will do when attempting a jump. You can see them visualising their jump, visualising how that will feel and visualising success.

Direct suggestions to improve performance is an approach where the individual focuses on their best performance to date, accessing it in their mind and focusing on how they performed, and how it felt. The positives of the performance are emphasised. With direct suggestion, a positive state of mind / belief system is established. Athletes are also encouraged to describe in 3 words their best performance; these are then used to “anchor” the positive state so that the athlete can trigger this state as and when they need it.

Staying in the moment is a big thing for athletes, ensuring they focus directly on what’s at hand and block out all forms of distraction. This approach, “Suggestions for concentration” can be seen often when watching test cricket, especially players such as Jonathon Trott for England. He constantly goes through his routines and is unaware of any distractions around him; he uses his routines to stay in the moment and to “re-focus” for every ball he faces.

Keep in mind…

So a lot of sport really is played in the mind, and hypnosis can really help sporting performance. It can help with training, with muscle memory, mental attitude, visualization, concentration and promote feelings of confidence and endurance. Essentially hypnosis can help anyone improve their sporting performances.

Remember at the top levels of sport, the margins between success and failure are so small, and sporting hypnosis could well play the winning part.

Spring Clean your Mind

30 Mar

So spring is here, it’s starting to get warmer, the days longer and the flowers are starting to bloom. With warmer and longer days, we all feel a little fresher, able to cope with new challenges and we all seem to have a little more energy.

Spring Cleaning...Not just for the home...

Spring Cleaning...Not just for the home...

A report in the Archives of General Psychiatry suggests there is a strong biological link between the seasons and our energy levels and our mood in general. With spring comes an increased level of serotonin, which makes us less lethargic, and far more optimistic. Ask yourself this, do you feel more motivated and ready for the day in the spring?

Spring clean

We’ve all heard that expression – spring clean – and it’s something most of us do in our homes, opening the windows and letting that warmer, fresh air circulate through our homes. But a spring clean doesn’t have to just relate to our homes, spring is a great time for an assessment of your own mental health.

A spring clean of the mind is all about self-reflection, looking back and dealing with your past, and then focussing on the future. Canadian researchers found that there is less serotonin (the brain chemical associated with improving our mood) circulating in the brain during autumn and winter. Seasonal, decreased serotonin levels are linked to decreased mood and increased lethargy.

Our very own Avy Joseph, Principal of the College, explained in a Daily Telegraph article that over the winter months many of us get stuck in a feeling of unhappiness triggered by an event, such as a marital breakdown, that we can’t get past. “You have to challenge those beliefs that trigger the feelings (such as a belief that you are a failure after a divorce) and then accepting what has happened judging yourself as a failure. Understand that whatever happened is an event fixed in time and that life, like the seasons, moves on. Accept yourself as a valuable person who has imperfections.”

But how can we do this?  Avy explains: “Bad things do happen but you can recover from them. Reflect on your life regularly; set aside a small amount of time to ask ‘Am I going where I want to go?’ And take time to meditate or relax, to be still and accepting. And then think of ways to be positive, to appreciate the world around you”

By doing this we cleanse our minds, ready for whatever new things the spring and summer months have to offer.

Personal Growth

Spring is a great time to cultivate friendships, invest in relationships and to explore our own personal growth, through books and courses, for example. Many of us have lots of interests we would love to follow more, or things that we want to learn but we never seem to make time for. Making time for personal growth can give you a new way of thinking and behaving in the world .

At the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy, spring is a great time for people to discover and explore an interest in Hypnosis, Counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy. It’s one of the reasons why the college runs its foundation course in spring (starting the end of April). It’s a part time course that runs over weekends, so it doesn’t affect your day to day working life. These types of courses are perfect to help you feed your interest, but are flexible enough so you can fit them into your daily life. For some, taking new courses can even lead to a fresh career, a fresh start to their working lives.

Spring in your step

So this spring, take the time to clean out nor just your home, but also your mind. Give it a good clean with some self-reflection, look to the future and be positive, and then take advantage of those increased serotonin levels, the warmer and longer days, and feel that spring in your step return…

Emotional responsibility and accountability

20 Mar

The headline in today’s Mirror was a quote from Dennis Waterman saying ‘I hit Rula … but clever women make men lash out’ and the inside story had another quote ‘It’s not hard for a woman to make a man hit …’

Denis Waterman with Rula Lenska (Picture from the Mirror Newspaper)

This erroneous belief is at the heart of emotional problems and behavioural problems and indeed at the heart of abusive relationships.  If it was true then the only solution to solving this issue for those men who believe “clever women MAKE men hit them” is for women to be less clever than them.

Is it true that events or people make us do what we do?

Let’s think about what we do and assume that people make us behave as we do.

Example:  A clever woman argues better than a man = Man hits her

If it is true that a clever woman ‘makes’ a man hit her, then every clever woman would experience the same physically abusive behaviour.  It would mean that every man who has relationship with a clever woman would be unable to control himself and would be hitting the woman.

10 Clever women argue better than 10 men = 10 Men hit the 10 women

100 Clever women argue better than 100 men = 100 Men hit the 100 women

1000 Clever women argue better than 1000 men = 1000 Men hit the 1000 women

Does this make sense?

The problem is that people say ‘he made me do it’ or ‘she made me lose my temper’, ‘she made me hit her’.  It is as if they have absolutely no control over how they feel or how they behave.  If we do not have a part to play in how we feel and behave then we would be completely stuck, unable to move forward or do anything useful.  Is this what we see happen to everyone around us?

So who is responsible for your feelings, attitude and behaviour? 

The simple answer is ‘you are’.  You are responsible for your feelings and reactions and they are provoked by your thoughts; the attitudes you’ve formed; the habits and beliefs you no longer question.

This is the principle of Emotional Responsibility:  “You are largely responsible for the way you feel and act”.  Largely does not mean the other person sometimes causes your behaviour.  We just mean that there are some disorders like Manic Depression or Clinical Depression that are organic in nature; meaning it’s do with the person’s biology or genetic makeup.

The principle of emotional responsibility can be difficult for some people to accept, particularly if you are going through a difficult time or have experienced a personal tragedy.  It is natural to feel angry, sad, depressed or hurt in response to accidents, illness and other challenges in life.  It is also natural to experience negative emotions when you find someone challenging, but you can change your reaction.

Different people feel and experience contrasting emotions even when they experience the same challenge or difficulty. Therefore it is not the situation or another person that makes you feel or do.

This quote is conceptualised by one of the main schools of cognitive behaviour therapy called Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy’s (REBT) ABC diagram of human disturbance.  It is not the event, but the belief or view you hold about the event, which is at the heart of emotional states and performance.  Emotions, thoughts, behaviours can be healthy and functional or dysfunctional. The event can be something that has happened in the past, something that is happening now or something that could happen in the future.  It can also be real, imaginary or internal or external.  Internal events can be thoughts, images, memories, physical sensations or even emotions.

ABC Event Belief Consequences

ABC - Event, Belie,f Consequences Diagram

ABC – Event, Belief, Consequences Diagram

Beliefs that are unhealthy have at their core explicit or implicit rigid, powerful demands and commands usually expressed  as MUSTs, SHOULDs, HAVE to’s, GOT to’s e.g. I absolutely must not be rejected.  Essentially, unhealthy demands are not based on what is possible in reality.  Therefore, certain unfavourable or undesirable possibilities are not accepted e.g. rejection.

These demands also have powerful derivatives such as “If I am rejected, which I MUST not,

a) It’s awful (i.e. 100% bad)

b) It’s unbearable (i.e. can’t survive, cope or be happy at all)

c) It proves I am a worthless person.

So REBT is about:

  1. Helping      a client understand their emotions, behaviour and goals,
  2. Identify      their unhealthy or unhelpful beliefs that are sabotaging their happiness      and goals,
  3. Challenge      them and replace them with their healthier version in order to become      undisturbed and eventually happy.

So as far as the ‘Clever women make men hit them’, it is simply untrue and does not make any sense.  The B is missing in the ABC.  The A is Clever Woman, the C is Man hitting her but the B is the Man’s unhealthy belief about the clever woman which then leads him to lash out.  His belief is his responsibility and his alone.

Self-esteem, relationships and our happiness

6 Mar

Do you know what things in life make you happy? More often than not, if we sit and think about that question, we often start to wonder what “happiness” really is…But that’s a different blog post.

Two important factors in our happiness are our own self-esteem and our relationships.

Self-esteem and relationships have a massive role in our happiness

Self-esteem and relationships, two factors of your happiness


The Happiness Survey

Measuring your happiness is tough, but that was something the College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy and Top Sante magazine attempted to do with a jointly held “happiness survey”.  The results showed that there are many influences on our happiness, but ultimately, we feel how we think. So, when unpleasant things happen or when we experience frustration and difficulty,  we have two sets of beliefs about them. Healthy or rational beliefs about the unpleasant things provoke sadness, annoyance or even regret, while unhealthy ones provoke unhealthy negative feelings anxiety, depression, guilt hurt etc.

You can read more on the Happiness survey here:



Our emotional state can have a big impact on our relationships, if your thoughts or beliefs about your partner are unhealthy, then your relationship will become unhealthy too. When it comes to relationships, we must remember that we are ultimately responsible for our own thoughts, feelings, our behaviours and the types of relationships we tolerate and or enjoy.

You can read more about investing in your relationships here:

Self esteem

There are many factors that play a part in our own self-esteem. In a previous blog post we explored these in more detail, see our post

Our own self-esteem can have a positive impact on other aspects of our lives, such as our relationships and happiness, but a low self-esteem can have equally as powerful negative impact on these areas of our lives.

Throughout life we all need to use different tools to take control and deal with self-esteem issues.  This can be hard, especially if you are the type of person who struggles with low self-esteem. The College of Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy is running a Master Class in dealing with self-esteem issues (the previous master class was very popular). For more information on this master class and the things and tools you will learn from it, please visit


Feel how you think…

The way in which we think is ultimately the way we feel. If we feel good, then our self-esteem, our relationships and our overall happiness all benefit.