We usually think of “Mind” and “Body” as two separate entities. However, our thinking and physiological responses are not separated. The Mind and Body are NOT two separated kingdoms. Mind-body is one, interdependent in each other. Psychophysiology is the science that focuses on the relationship between mind and body as one (mind-body). For example, suppose you are cutting vegetables to cook dinner and start replaying in your mind a situation in the sport where you were insulted by another athlete. In that case, the imagery of being insulted will cause physical changes in your body that are fed back to your brain and lead to changes in the way you perceive and remember the action you just performed (cutting all the vegetables), and hopefully, you did not cut your finger off.
Also, sensations from your body can change the states of your mind (because they are one). Let’s say that you are hungry; the sensation of hunger will cause chemical changes in the way your brain orients to its surroundings, you change priorities, and you start looking for food. After you eat, the changes in blood sugar level modify your behavior again.
Now, if you are preparing to perform and worry too much about the outcome of the game, the nervousness and overthinking will cause sweaty palms, shortness of breath, tension in the neck and shoulders, and poor decision making. However, taking slow breaths before the performance and letting go of the tension on the muscles will reduce anxiety and refresh the mind.
Luckily, we have the science that looks at the interactions between mind and body and shows us how thoughts and emotions elicit changes in brain waves, heart rate, muscle tension, and respiration rate. And by using sophisticated technology to see inside the brain and body of athletes to investigate how they feel, think, and perform during challenging situations in sport; we can train new responses.
The computer-based technology that allows us to see inside the athletes’ body is called Biofeedback or biological feedback. After learning how athletes are responding, protocols developed to enhance athletic performance guide the biofeedback training that will change the responses that were previously automatic and maximize sport performance. During the biofeedback session, sensors are placed on the athletes’ bodies and connected to a computer that feed-back information about the athletes’ state. By becoming aware of physiological processes, athletes can now use mental skills and biofeedback to manage thoughts and emotions, voluntarily deactivate unconscious physiological responses, and choose the behaviors that will result in the best performances.
You can train your mind-body to respond optimally and enhance athletic performance. However, you will need a sport psychology professional who has training in psychophysiological approaches to enhance athletic performance and is able to integrate the mental, behavioral, and physiological training tools.
If you want to learn more, request the free consultation
Andrea C. Dias, MA, ABSP
Masters in Sport and Performance Psychology
American Board of Sport Psychology; Board Certified Sport Performance Consultant