The Swiss tennis star Roger Federer wins over and over again. Whenever a situation requires it, he is 100 % focused. Is it a coincidence? He shows, in any case, enormous mental strength. Nowadays mental training is gaining more and more attention in sports, economics as well as in daily life.
”We are what we think.” Buddha
In addition to cardio and technical exercise, athletes also train their mind. Mental training focuses on the ability to concentrate completely on your goal in any given situation. As a result, the best performances can be guaranteed. Another positive factor of mental training is being able to regain your motivation after bad results.
I’ve got experience in mental training too. My Japanese piano teacher asked me not only to practice the piano at home but to also do mental exercises. She told me to take my piano notes with me every single day and to think of the piece – the tone, the sound and also of the atmosphere of a concert, the audience’s applause, the bow. Before every performance, she told me to imagine every picture, every emotion and every finger movement that may come to my mind when thinking of the piece. I’m convinced that mental training was a great help to me. Without imagining at least the first line of a piece before playing, I feel hindered when beginning to play, even today. Just by imagining, it helps me to find my perfect emotional state and to be highly concentrated right from the start.
A popular example of how pure imagination can influence human behaviour is the placebo effect. It shows not only that placebo indeed takes effect, but also that the placebo has better results when the patient has positive thoughts of the doctor or the clinic.
Imagination is a real thing for our brain. Merely imagining that you’re biting into a sour lemon has several effects: the change of our facial expressions through to salivation. And that’s where the work of imagination begins.
Research shows that mental techniques such as imagining (visualising) physical movements can provoke changes in our mind and even without any physical exercise we are likely to build muscle. But how is that possible? When we just think of a specific task for example, our brain is able to activate those neuronal networks and similar motoric areas that would have been activated when we had been doing the task (u.a. Gentili R. et al., 2010, Journal of Neurophysiology).
Are you feeling listless? Are you experiencing memory lapses writing exams? Are you feeling completely nervous thinking of the next exam? Numerous children and teenagers are experiencing stress, anxiety and mental blocks in different situations such as family, kindergarten, school or social environment, which can lead to behavioural or school problems. Mental training can help anxiety disappear and self-confidence and concentration increase. So, you can achieve all your goals almost effortlessly. Read these tricks that make it easier to learn a language:
1. “I’d like to... until... because...”
Just before you start learning a new language you should think of three reasons why you really want to. What’s important is making them sound positive, e.g. “I’d like to have professional success. I’d like to get promoted within a year. In order to achieve my goals I need to improve my English“ or “I’d like to brush up on my French before going to Paris next year.” Clearly remembering your goals motivates you and makes you think positively about your upcoming learning sessions. Weinberg & Gould (2007) claim that 90 % of all studies carried out worldwide prove that regular goal setting is effective for better performance.
2. Introducing by listening subconsciously
“Learning should always start at a receptive stage.” Says Barbara Hinger, head of the Institute of Higher Education Didactics at the University of Innsbruck. This means that we should listen to the radio or watch a film in the foreign language, consciously or even subconsciously. “The key to success is to learn by imitating – like children do.” Even if you can’t follow in the foreign language or you just know a few words, your brain gets used to the language’s sound. Your subconscious starts processing the new language and building new nerves. To understand the language’s meaning, translate a text word-for-word according to the brain-friendly Birkenbihl method. Important: Full sentences are a must! Then you can use words in the correct context and avoid getting caught by language traps such as ambiguity.
3. Say it out loud
Listen to a known text and try to repeat what you’ve heard at the same time. By doing so you will strengthen your vocabulary and grammar knowledge and even improve your pronunciation. The result of constant practicing is that you’ll feel more confident and you’ll do it with ease. You can also practice in silence: repeat a text in your foreign language in your mind and use emotions and images to connect it. Try to imitate the speaker and to take the speaker’s point of view.
4. Brief learning sessions for 10 minutes
The short-term memory can usually receive no more than five to nine information units. That means that learning sessions should be kept short. Translate for example four sentences word-for-word and do something else (sports exercises or subconscious listening) for 10 minutes afterwards. Then translate a few sentences again and continue doing so. As a result, you’ll be 100 % focused and you’ll profit from your brain’s natural process, as it continues processing information for 10 minutes even though you’re already concentrating on something else. 10 minute sessions can, therefore, reinforce your success. For more information on 10-minute-sessions click here.
However, you should take into consideration that within the first hour you’ll forget up to 50 % of what you’ve learned. To obtain the best possible results, repeat your text at least three times. (More information here: Repeat It To Keep It: “Third Time’s a Charm.“)