Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
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Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Improve Sports Performance Using Visualization, Meditation, or Self Hypnosis

Perhaps you have seen those news stories about individual athletes, or even entire athletic teams, who have improved their performance by securing the services of a sports hypnotist. The research literature in psychology supports the conclusion that such interventions have been effective. (Barker & Jones, 2008; Levitan, 2012; Tramontana, 2011). But you don't have to hire a hypnotist yourself in order to obtain similar results. Neither is it necessary to use meditation or self-hypnosis, although these procedures can provide helpful mental preparation. What really counts is the ability to actively engage the imagination so that you can pre-experience successful performance as vividly as possible.  

Regardless of whether or not you use meditation or self-hypnosis as a preliminary, I recommend regular practice with the Best Me Technique as a way of allowing you to involve your whole person to visualize successful performance, so that you can experience now, in the present and in concentrated form, the rewards and satisfactions which would not normally be yours until success has actually been achieved. This will not only improve your performance, but it will also provide you with the motivation to pursue it. 

Each element of the Best Me Technique corresponds with a dimension of experience (Beliefs, Emotions, Sensations and physical perceptions, Thoughts and images, Motives, and Expectations), which may be used in any order and varied and repeated as often as desired in order to involve the imaginagion as completely as possible. I'm going to use bowling as an example of how to use the Best Me Technique to improve performance, but it can just as easily be applied to other areas of sport, such as archery, shooting, golf, or even equestrian events. Here's how it works.

First, find a quiet place where you are not likely to be disturbed. Close your eyes and imagine or picture yourself about to bowl a successful strike, using imagery like this:

Beliefs. Believe, or picture in your mind, that you are headed towards a certain and inevitable success. 

Emotions. Feel the thrill of achievement surging through you as you realize that victory is assured.

Sensations and Physical perceptions. Listen to the sound of the ball rolling down the chute while the people around you grow quiet.

Thoughts and Images: See the ball hit the pins directly, and watch them go flying in every direction .

Motives. Realize that this is how you want your bowling to become.

Expectations. Allow yourself to fully savor in your mind the fruits of your success! 

Believe it will happen, expect it to happen, feel it happening, and savor in advance the fruits of your success. Practice and rehearse regularly, and with patience. And, above all, make sure that you enjoy it!



Barker, J. & Jones, M. (2008). The effects of hypnosis on self-efficacy, affect, and soccer performance: A case study.  Journal of Clinical Sport Psychology, 2(2),  pp. 127-147.

Tramontana, J. (2011).  Sports hypnosis in practice: Scripts, strategies and case examples.
Norwalk, CT, US: Crown House Publishing Limited.

Levitan, A. (2012).  Review of Sports hypnosis in practice: Scripts, strategies, and case examples. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 54(4), pp. 365-366 



Here are just a few the other practical applications of hyperempiria, or suggestion-enhanced experience, contained on this Blog,  You can learn how to:


Gibbons, D. E. (2001). Experience as an art form. .New York, NY: Authors Choice Press.

Gibbons, D. E. (2000). Applied hypnosis and hyperempiria. Lincoln, NE: Authors Choice Press (originally published 1979 by Plenum Press).

Gibbons, D. E., & Cavallaro, L (2013).. Exploring alternate universes: And learning what they can teach us. Amazon Kindle E-Books. (Note: It is not necessary to own a Kindle reader to download this e-book, as the Kindle app may be downloaded free of charge to a standard desktop or laptop computer and to most cell phones.)

Gibbons, D. E., & Lynn, S. J. (2010). Hypnotic inductions: A primer. in S. J. Lynn, J. W. Rhue, & I. Kirsch (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis, 2nd ed. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, pp. 267-291.

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