Most people have one small, almost undetectable habit that has a significant influence over their frame of mind, their performance, and even their motor skills. And they are (for the most part) blissfully unaware.
Self-talk is your own ongoing internal dialogue, whether that be positive or in some cases, negative. Your self-talk has a heavy influence over your subconscious mind, and it can be very revealing of your innermost thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas.
And how you manage this self-talk can truly make or break your character, your health, and your career.
What is Self-Talk?
Self-talk is like a program running constantly in the background, helping you make executive decisions, analyze information, and influence how you perform at any given task. Self-talk can either be positive or negative and can have a significant impact on athletic performance, both in training and especially, on game day.
There are two main types of self-talk weighing in on opposite ends of the spectrum: positive and negative. Positive self-talk is when you use affirming, encouraging, and optimistic words and phrases to boost your confidence and motivation. Positive self-talk can boost your sports performance by helping you stay focused, engaged, and dictate how much you enjoy the game. Negative self-talk, on the other hand, is critical, discouraging, and pessimistic, ruminating on words and phrases that can lower your confidence and motivation. For example:
- Negative: “You failed and embarrassed yourself.”
- Positive: “You should be proud for even trying. That took courage.”
Benefits of Positive Self-Talk
The benefits of self-talk go beyond the scope of good intentions and actually host a number of physiological benefits to our overall wellness. Research shows that positive self-talk may have neurological benefits that help people who practice positive self-talk to solve problems more efficiently, create different thought patterns, and be more resilient to challenges overall.
Some of the benefits of positive self-talk include:
- increased vitality
- enhanced sense of gratitude
- improved immune system function
- reduction in pain
- improved cardiovascular health
- enhanced stress management
How Self-Talk Affects Motor Skills
Positive self-talk can have a significant impact on your motor skills, like running, walking, skating, throwing, or dribbling. Research has shown that athletes who engage in positive self-talk before and during competitions have better motor skills.
Positive self-talk can help you stay focused on your technique, which is crucial for executing the right movements with exact timing. It can also help you stay calm under pressure and overcome performance anxiety, which can interfere with your motor skills. Positive self-talk can help high performance under pressure, which may also help players get recruited and even drafted onto high-performance teams.
How Self-Talk Affects Cognitive Performance
In addition to affecting motor skills, self-talk can also impact cognitive performance, which is important for athletes to perform under pressure and to develop resiliency. Studies show that athletes who engage in positive self-talk have better cognitive performance and are more likely to make quick and accurate decisions, which can have a huge impact on the team and the game. Positive self-talk can help athletes to stay motivated and encouraged in the face of setbacks, which can improve your cognitive performance.
How to Develop Positive Self-Talk to Impact Performance
If you’re like the majority of people, you may struggle occasionally (or a lot) with negative self-talk. The good news is, it doesn’t take much to turn that frown upside down, so to speak. Positive self-talk takes practice and isn’t perfect every time. The secret is to catch yourself in the midst of a negative moment and to immediately replace it with a positive one (even if it doesn’t feel totally true – yet).
For example, if you’ve told yourself, “I’m not going to make this shot,” catch yourself and immediately replace it with the positive and say, “I will make this shot.” While this may seem daunting, with repetition and practice, positive self-talk will become more habitual and natural and over time will transform your performance. Make sure to use third-person language for the biggest impact, replacing ‘I’ or ‘my’ with ‘you’ and your own name:
- “I’m doing better than I think” vs.
- “Lebron, you’re doing better than you think.”
Top 5 Positive Self-Talk Tips
Like any disciplined athlete knows, developing tools and techniques to keep you committed and on track is key to excelling at anything. Sticking with it and developing your own style can also help. Here are a few of our top strategies for making positive self-talk feel like it was custom-fit:
- Choose a Mantra:
Choose one of two mantras that you can remember and stick with it. Make it simple enough to repeat over and over, like: “I feel focused” or “the shot goes in, the shot goes in”.
- Envision the Outcome:
Picture out the game, the shot, or the play exactly as you want it to happen. Play it over and over again in your head during practice, in the shower, or even on the drive home. Envision it into existence.
- Know Your Achilles Heel:
If you’re learning or struggling with any particular technique, use words and visuals to practice that technique over and over again in your head. Tell yourself exactly how you do it and exactly what it feels like when it happens just right. The image, along with the words, is a powerful combination that creates a positive message tied to a belief.
Using affirming, encouraging, and optimistic words and phrases, you can stay focused, confident, and motivated on and off the field. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned athlete, incorporating positive self-talk into your training can help you achieve your goals and reach your full potential.
And so can StellaPop.
Find out more about our Sports Management Marketing and how we can help you, and your positive self-talk, get back in the game.