The Effects of Hypnotherapy and Meditation on Sports Performance

The Common Thread

When we observe athletes at the peak of their game, we identify a common thread, hyper-focus. In addition to their focus, we often observe confidence and a relaxed state of being. Some call this the athlete’s “flow state” or “being in the flow.” So what is it that allows a person to maintain this state of mind even when they experience pressure from their peers, audience members, coaches or family members? What allows them to perform at such a high level when the stakes are so high or their own personal goals, ego and standards are often at risk?

Two Pillars to Success

Exercising the mind and maintaining a meditation practice are two pillars supporting the success of many of our highest performing athletes. Lebron James is a great example of someone who values this approach. Lebron teamed up with the Calm app to promote mental fitness and mental wellbeing. He’s been quoted as saying, “I try to do a silent meditation every day, either first thing in the morning or right before bed. I’m always in a quiet place where I can sit in silence and just breathe. If I head into a meditation with my mind a little scattered, I always come out of it feeling more clear and calm.” 

Meditation and the Brain

Meditation enhances focus for athletes, enabling them to dismiss external distraction and focus solely on the game, or task at hand. Evidence supports that meditation can reduce pain intensity by 40%, improve the quality of sleep, boost the immune system, and reduce overall stress. During meditation, the frontal cortex (which controls socializing, memory, planning, problem solving, and so many other essential functions) basically ‘shuts down’ and takes a break. When we activate this neurological response, we are teaching our mind that it’s safe to relax and release stress. With a regular meditation practice, one can start to approach everything in life in a calmer and more responsive manner instead of a reactive one. 

Hypnotherapy

One could say that Hypnotherapy takes the benefits of meditation a step further. Hypnotherapy gives us direct access to the subconscious mind. People in the hypnotic state are more open to positive suggestions, new concepts and the reinforcement of them. Hypnotherapy takes a person into a similar type of flow state that an athlete experiences. In this state healthier and more supportive thought patterns can be developed and practiced.  Just as an athlete might go to practice daily for his sport, we can practice new habits daily via hypnotherapy sessions and with the help of recordings from the hypnotherapist in between sessions. Just as in sports, repetition and rehearsal is key to growth and mastery of a new habit or thought pattern. Hypnotherapy also allows us to explore subconscious roadblocks, resistance or limiting beliefs that may be slowing, or stalling, our personal growth or game. 

Stanford Medical University published a study in 2016 that studied what happened inside the brain a person underwent hypnotherapy and entered a trance state. According to the study, there were three major happenings inside the brain that made a huge difference in the person’s thinking and behavior when he/she was in a trance state.

  1. The person was able to focus solely on the task at hand and did not worry about anything other than the task.
  2. The body and the brain were perfectly synced up.
  3. There was a reduction in the general awareness and analysis of the person’s surroundings which resulted in more confidence when performing a task. 

The study also noted  that the brain undergoes sizable changes while in the trance/hypnotic state. These changes make the person more focused, effective, relaxed and confident. In conclusion, meditation and hypnotherapy produce long lasting results that change the quality of a person’s performance drastically, athlete or not. If you want to take your golf game, free throw skills, surfing technique or any sport or skill to the next level, consider adding meditation and hypnotherapy to your life.