Your mental state has a huge impact on your performance. This holds true in life, in sport, and in your regular day-to-day workouts. Fortunately, your mind – much like any muscle in your body – can be trained.
Training your mind for success is just as important as any other facet of exercise physiology. If you’re not in an optimal mental state, your performance will suffer. If your performance suffers, you’re not going to see the results you want. It’s that simple.
This article is going give you a little bit of background about how psychology influences performance, then it will follow with some mental performance tips taken straight out of sport psychology and provide some information about a few natural ingredients that help boost mental performance.
How psychology influences performance
Psychological research strongly suggests your mental state plays a vital role in performance – positively and negatively. Psychological factors that impact performance are things like stress, anxiety, and tension.
Stress is a physical, mental, or emotional demand that takes the body or mind out of its comfort zone. Stress operates on a continuum: no stress isn’t good (if there is no challenge you cannot grow and develop), some stress is good (every person has their own optimal amount of stress), and too much stress is bad (the circumstances become overwhelming and you cannot perform).
Anxiety is a disturbed state of mind that includes physical symptoms – such as trembling, twitching, feelings of fullness in the throat or chest, feeling jumpy – and emotional symptoms – restlessness, worrying, irritability, among many others.
Much like general stress, some anxiety is good since it helps sharpen the attention. Too much or too little anxiety, however, and your performance suffers.
Tension is the physical manifestation of the internal mental state. Tension can be created by too much stress and anxiety. If you’re conflicted, overstressed, or overanxious it is reflected in your appearance or behavior as some, or all, of your muscles are in a partially contracted state. You lose fluidity in your movements making everything much more difficult as muscles combat one another across your joints.
As mentioned, stress and anxiety exist on a continuum. Too much or too little hurts performance. Like Goldy Locks, you need just the right amount.
The next section will provide you with a few tips to optimize your mental state.
Tips for boosting mental performance
It’s easy to set goals that exacerbate stress, anxiety, and tension rather than optimize them. Goals that do this are lofty, vague, and unrealistic.
An example of a bad goal would be for me to say, “I want to cut 20% of my body fat.”
Yes, it may be attainable with a lot of hard work and dedication, but it sets me up for unnecessary mental anguish as it is just too much to work for all at one time.
Goals should be designed in small, achievable increments. A better goal would be for me to say, “I’m going to lose 1% body fat every week.”
Another important facet of goal-setting is breaking down the goal into a game plan. How exactly are you going to turn it into a reality? What are you going to do every day? What do you have to add? What do you have to sacrifice?
Goal-setting like this breaks down stress and anxiety into bite-size pieces and prevents them from becoming overwhelming. It also shifts your perspective to the process rather than the end goal, allowing you to build confidence as you work towards your ultimate end-point.
Don’t underestimate the power of a good routine. Your brain finds comfort in the expected and the less brain-power you have to use thinking about what you are going to do next the more brain-power you’ll have to devote to your performance.
If you’re struggling to find the motivation to go to the gym, developing a routine where it’s the first thing you do in the morning when you wake up can make it much easier as it becomes habit.
You can also create associations between activities. Certain playlists, for example, can be played every time you’re getting ready for a workout. Things like this are simple and seem trivial, but they are powerful tools to create a mental state conducive of your best effort in whatever task you’re performing.
Lifestyle factors like these can help ease stress and anxiety, ensuring you have just the right amount to be at your best.
Natural ingredients that boost mental performance
There’s a reason caffeine is possibly the most popular ergogenic aid of all time. Humans have been using it to feel more energized and alert for hundreds of years.
If you’re feeling low and need a pick-me-up, a cup of coffee can get you to the arousal state that will help you perform at your best.
It is possible to go too far, though. Too much caffeine can cause anxiety and too much anxiety has a negative impact on performance.
2) Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo Biloba, in its supplement form, is derived from the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s thought to increase blood flow to the brain and is linked to improving cognitive functions like focus.
3) Rhodiola Rosea
Derived from the herb Rhodiola rosea, this supplement has been used in Chinese medicine for a long time to promote well-being and healthy brain function.
Rhodiola Rosea is thought to benefit brain function by maintaining mental processing through the reduction of fatigue.
Your mental game is vital to performance. And performance can really mean anything. It could be your job, chores at home, your workouts, or even athletic performance. Whatever the task may be, having the tools available to reduce or raise stress and anxiety to their optimal level will help you always be the best you.
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