Letting your self-talk work for you
Hey there everybody! How’s your week going? Mine has been great. It didn’t’ start off that way, though; a 49ers loss on Sunday dampened my mood a bit, but after a little reflection, I’ve been able to turn things around. How did I do it? Read on to find out.
I’ve got a short article today about some sport psychology methods that could be useful to your children when playing sports or even when going about their business throughout the day. Who knows, you may even pick up something useful as well.
Growing up, it’s natural to feel a little down on yourself from time to time. Whether it’s a bad day at school, a poor performance at practice, or some kids making fun of you, I think we all remember those days when we just felt kind of yucky. Heck, they probably still happen from time to time. When these feelings or thoughts of inadequacy rear their ugly heads, there are a few things we can do turn the situation around.
I’m sure most of us have heard the phrase “I can’t control the actions of others; I can only control my reaction to them,” or some variation on it. Controlling or manipulating our reactions to others’ actions and various situations helps us to deal with stressors more effectively. Here are two simple ways that you can help your children work through negative thought processes.
This is a simple way to turn a negative thought into a positive one. Let’s say, for example, I’m a 10-year-old and I just had a very bad football game. I dropped some passes, I made some mistakes, and my team lost. I’m probably thinking to myself “I’m the worst. I dropped so many passes today that I’ll never be a good football player.” This sort of negative self-talk doesn’t offer a solution or any optimism for the future. It’s essentially giving up. Reframing offers us a way to turn this negative thought, “I’ll never be a good football player,” into a more positive, constructive thought. For example: “I dropped a lot of passes today, but now I know what I need to work on over the next week,” or “I may have played poorly, but I can’t wait to get out there and try again.” Reframing helps us to change our perceptions of events and see them in a more positive light. This takes a bit of practice, but if done on a regular basis, it can really help to change your outlook on disappointing or negative events. As parents, when you hear your child having some negative thoughts, try your best to reframe them in a more positive or neutral light. It will likely change your child’s outlook on the situation.
2. Thought Stopping This method requires a bit more practice and a good amount of self-awareness. Let’s use tennis as an example. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are entrenched in a 5-set match at Wimbledon. Roger has just had his serve broken and needs to win the next game to get back on serve. Roger might be thinking to himself, “I can’t do anything right, Rafa always beats me down the stretch. He’s better than I am. Nothing I do works against this guy.” He probably said it in German, though. To use thought stopping, Roger first must be aware that he is experiencing some very negative self-talk. Recognizing this talk, Roger can then use a trigger word he has used in practice (e.g., No, stop, reverse, etc.) to eliminate that negative thought from his mind and introduce a counter. After using the trigger word, Roger can think “I have trained for hours everyday to be able to dig out of this hole. If I just play this one point at a time and hit my shots like I do in practice, I can turn this thing around.” Roger has turned a self-defeating thought-process into a solution-focused thought process and is well on his way to turning the match around.
If these two methods seem overly simplistic, it’s because the ideas behind them are. We’ve all been told to “look on the bright side” in our lives before, and these two methods are simply variations on that phrase. However, it takes a certain kind of awareness and a good amount of practice to effectively implement these changes in cognition on a regular basis.
Coming back to my first point about the 49ers, I simply needed to remind myself that, while the 49ers lost in embarrassing fashion, it’s only the third game of the season! More importantly, football is only a silly game and it shouldn’t have a dramatic impact on my mood. By reframing this situation, I can be positive and delightful throughout the week. Or at least until their next loss, which will just be another opportunity to try out some sport psychology! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week.