Mental Moment: Psychoneuromuscular Theory
How does imagery really work?
Psychoneuromuscular theory: when an Elite Performer practices using imagery, they imagine movements without performing them, although the brain interprets this as if they were performing them, which provides similar impulses in the brain and in the muscles. Small impulses fire from your brain to your muscles with the exactness that you are imagining.
Take one small area of your performance that you are struggling with or want to enhance. If you were performing that one thing to your level of ‘perfection’ what would that look like? Write it down. Go through what you wrote down and take out anything you can’t see, hear, taste, smell or touch or anything that is phrased in a negative way.
Go through it again and add some sensory information (see, hear, taste, smell or touch) and positive’s (strong, steady, soft, fast, etc.). The positives might not be what is actually happening but what you want to have happen. For example, one of my elite marathon clients used to start races too fast so she began imagining that she started races slower (which for her was a positive), strong, energized and relaxed.
Imagery should include as many senses as possible. Think back to your favorite movie. If you were watching the movie but had no sound, what would your experience be like? What if you had sound but no picture? Now imagine you were watching and listening to your favorite movie and you could taste, smell and feel everything going on in that movie. How would that change your experience? Lastly, you have probably attached various emotional states to your favorite movie: sadness, laughter, anger, etc. Because we use so many of our senses when we watch a movie, it feels like real life and that is why we watch it. Imagery is much the same way.
Imagery works to improve concentration, build confidence, control emotional responses, acquire or develop sports skills, cope with pain or injury and help solve problems. Try it and let me know how is goes.