Don E. Gibbons, Ph.D., NJ Licensed Psychologist #03513
This Blog is published for information and educational purposes only. No warranty, expressed or implied, is furnished with respect to the material contained in this Blog. The reader is urged to consult with his/her physician or a duly licensed mental health professional with respect to the treatment of any medical or psychological condition.


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Saturday, August 25, 2018

How to Improve Sports Performance Using 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.  Self-hypnosis, can also 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.  

I recommend regular practice with the Best Me Technique (Gibbons & Lynn, 2010) in self hypnosis as a way of involve your whole person in visualizing 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 imagination as completely as possible. I'm going to use bowling as an example of how to use the Best Me Technique to improve bowling performance, but it can just as easily be applied to other sports such as baseball, golf, and soccer. Here's how it works.

First, find a quiet place where you are not likely to be disturbed. Close your eyes, and after inducing self hypnosis as described in the link above, 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.

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.

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