Sports Psychology for Everyone: Keeping Your Head in the Game

By Joan Swart, Psychologist, Open Forest

Happy People

Performing optimally at work, school, and socially places unique demands on the body and mind of a person. Even mainly focusing on improving personal best performances and reap benefits such as a doing impressive work with less stress, hard work can have the opposite effect if the body and mind are not balanced and working in unison. And, let’s face it, most people also have problems and challenges to contend with in their daily lives. From losing a loved one, having work and financial pressures, marital and relationship problems, family responsibilities, unexpected hardship, sleep difficulties, an unhealthy diet, and addictions, to routine everyday issues, most of us have been there, done that, and first-hand seen the effect it has on our health and functioning. As such, most of us can benefit from knowing or practicing a few aspects of sports psychology that are described below.

So, how can sports psychology help?

Performing challenging tasks effectively – sometimes even just showing up at work – has a lot to do with our physical and mental preparedness and attitude. These personal orientations are intricately linked with our personalities, character identity, and psychological capital – our natural capacity to hope, be resilient, exert self-efficacy, and maintain optimism. While these aspects are all developed through a lifetime of experience to form a unique profile for every individual, changes can be made through learning and practice to help achieve new goals. Let’s start with the concept of character virtues.

Character Virtues

Scientists have identified 24 different character strengths that we have to a greater or lesser extent depending on our psychological makeup, cognitive ability, and life circumstances. They have divided these into six virtue categories, namely wisdom, courage, humanity, temperance, and transcendence.

Wisdom – Cognitive strengths that entail the acquisition and use of knowledge

Courage – Emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, external or internal

Humanity – Interpersonal strengths that involve tending and befriending others

Justice – Civic strengths that underlie healthy community life

Temperance – Strengths that protect against excess

Transcendence – Strengths that forge connections to the larger universe and provide meaning

These concepts may sound lofty, but here are just a few examples to help explain some of these virtues in the context of strength training: Wisdom is to know and recognize from experience what has worked for you before (and what hasn’t) and to be able to apply such an insight to your life. Courage is the emotional strength to face difficult tasks and challenging goals, especially when things are hard. Humanity is our ability to get involved in the community so that we can all benefit from shared support.

The Hero Within

Having psychological capital is when a person is in a positive state of mind that enables him or her to achieve their goals. They exhibit hope, optimism, resilience, and self-efficacy to shine and become their own personal hero!

Hope – having positive motivation driven by the energy and planning to meet goals

Optimism – the general tendency to expect positive results

Resilience – the capacity to bounce back from adversity, conflict, failure, change, and increased responsibility

Self-Efficacy – belief in one’s capability to perform a specific activity

It is self-evident that these dimensions are relevant to work and everyday life too and should be enhanced to perform at your best and achieve desired results. Together with character strengths, psychological capital can be greatly enhanced through simple and quick exercises with the help and guidance of a coach or mentor. Nowadays, coaching is not just something done on the sports field, but how you cultivate your attitude in all aspects of your life. The coaching can be formal/professional, informal, or online, whatever suits your needs best.

About Joan Swart, PsyD, Forensic Psychologist and lecturer

Joan Swart is a forensic psychologist, lecturer, and business developer at Open Forest LLC. She authored two books titled “Treating Adolescents with Family-Based Mindfulness” (Springer, 2015) and “Homicide: A Forensic Psychology Casebook” (CRC, 2016). She is a contributor to Hubpages and HuffPost.

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Latest update: April 20, 2018
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