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Introduction to self-talk

Self-talk along with its key elements and uses are introduced. Practical examples of applying self-talk are discussed and experiences shared.
Microphone on a stand

We all have an inner voice (self-talk) that acts as a running commentary on our lives. This commentary can be positive or negative, said aloud or kept within, and have a number of functions.

Ultimately, these inner statements will have an influence on our feelings/emotions and eventually our actions. For example, at certain times of the day we might tell ourselves that we feel hungry or tired. Often, the outcome of this will be that we fuel ourselves with food when we are hungry, and that we take a nap or go to bed a little earlier when we feel tired. For athletes, this inner voice might take on an increased level of importance in the moments prior to and during sporting performance. For example, an athlete’s internal dialogue might motivate them for a major competition, instruct or guide an aspect of their performance, and help them to focus better. More specifically, a professional footballer might utilise positive and motivational self-talk to boost his/her confidence and motivation in the seconds before taking a penalty kick, or a professional downhill skier might use instructional self-talk to guide them through the most difficult part of the course.

However, it is important to note that not only athletes can benefit from using positive self-talk. Research has shown that positive self-talk has improved students’ exam performance, candidates’ interview outcomes, and facilitated the rehabilitation of clinical patients. Over the course of this week, we will learn more detail about self-talk. More specifically, we will look at the different types (e.g. positive, negative, motivational and instructional) and functions of self-talk and how a range of populations (i.e. recreational, elite and clinical) may use this technique to enhance their performance and/or rehabilitation.

Once you have completed the additional reading material, please engage in conversation relating to the following question.

Have you ever used self-talk in a high pressure/competitive situation to facilitate your performance? If yes, explain whether this came naturally or if it was a conscious decision to try to control your thought pattern. If no, tell us a little more about why you might not have used it and whether you might now be more inclined to try it in the future. Share your experiences.

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Mental Skills Training for Sport and Health

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