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Many professional teams have a dedicated psychologist to help their athletes train better. Sports psychology is the study of how a person can effectively train for elite sports performance. It incorporates knowledge and ideas from several disciplines, including human movement, physiology, nutrition, and psychology. While sports psychologists typically work with elite athletes, many of the practice's insights apply to everyday life.

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Visualize Your Goals

Researchers have found that when athletes visualize their sport, they improve. Some studies show basketball players improve their skill as much when they imagine shooting a basketball

as when they physically practice this skill. Visualization can also help non-athletes: you are more likely to accomplish your goals when you visualize yourself achieving them.

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Use Emotion To Increase Motivation

Sports psychologists find that emotional largely influences motivation

. Athletes are the most motivated to practice when there is a high-stakes championship coming up. The emotional push from wanting to win helps (at least in the short-term) to motivate them to work harder. Non-athletes can use this to help them, too. Thinking about how it will feel to accomplish a goal can encourage a person work harder.

Motivation achieves goals sports psychology guvendemir / Getty Images
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Develop Discipline

For long-term training programs, athletes perform best when they develop a disciplined training schedule. The most important aspects of discipline are consistency and practice

. Off the field, people are better able to achieve their fitness, health, and other goals by developing a set of habits and sticking to them.

Disciplined athlete sport psychology PeopleImages / Getty Images
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Make Time To Relax

Relaxation seems to boost performance

. This may be because when we experience too much emotion — when we're too excited or nervous — we are less able to concentrate. Psychologists find that when athletes relax before an important performance, they do better. The lesson for non-athletes, here, is that relaxation could help improve performance on important tasks. Before you give a work presentation or do an interview for the job you want, take a few minutes to breathe deeply and relax.

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Practice Positive Self-Talk

Research suggests athletes' thoughts affect their performance. That is why sports psychologists often suggest that athletes include positive self-talk in their training regimens

. Non-athletes can use this technique, too. Rather than listening to your inner critic, give yourself a positive pep talk. Reinforce that you're capable of accomplishing a task and that the challenges you face are possible to overcome.

Positive self talk sport psychology DrAfter123 / Getty Images
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Meditate and Practice Mindfulness

For athletes to perform well, they have to focus on the present moment

, and this is something anyone can practice. Coaches and psychologists improve their team's ability focus by engaging them in mindfulness activities and meditation. This can help outside of sports, too. Mindfulness or meditation can help improve focus, which is useful in the workplace, at university, and in the gym.

Meditation in park sport psychology Marija Jovovic / Getty Images
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Set Goals

Setting realistic, measurable, and time-bound goals is one of the most important steps toward accomplishing difficult tasks. The sports psychology field has lots of research on how setting effective goals

contributes to an athlete's success. This is the same for non-athletes. To be successful, whether it's at work, at school, or in another context, it is important to develop clear goals.

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Eat Well

Adequate nutrition is essential in athletics

, but it is just as important in everyday life. Eating well helps a person to have more energy, think more creatively, and stay focused. A poor diet can impact mental health and make us less motivated to accomplish our goals. Balanced eating that incorporates lots of fruits and vegetables is critical for supporting high performance.

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Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is just as important as diet when it comes to well-being, and it greatly impacts how we perform

. A lack of sleep makes a person irritable, unable to concentrate, and reduces the ability to solve problems. To function properly, psychologists recommend sleeping for at least 8 hours every night.

Sleep sports psychology PeopleImages / Getty Images
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Connect to a Team

Psychologists emphasize how important our social networks are to our mental well-being and our health. In the same way that good relationships with team members

impact athletic performance, good relationships with friends and family can enhance overall performance. Building and maintaining close relationships can go a long way toward supporting our health and well-being.

Hands up teamwork skynesher / Getty Images

Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.