Nowadays, athletes not only undergo physical training; they also do mental strength training. Mental exercise like this can help them concentrate on the here and now so that at key moments, they can reach peak performance. The objective here is to achieve a heightened state of physical awareness and to define goals more effectively.

Strength starts in the mind

Studies have even found that mental techniques such as visualization can help build up muscles, even when you don’t do the actual exercise itself. The reason for this is that mental preparation activates similar areas of the brain as physical activity does.

What’s more, mental training can help you keep calm and maintain self-control in difficult situations, no matter whether you’re dealing with exercise, your job or everyday life.

All of this may sound too abstract for your taste. If so, you can work with the following tips to try mental training at home.

 1. Train your awareness

Keep a log book: in which situations do you feel good? Write down how you feel in these moments. And do the reverse as well: how does it feel when you aren’t in a good mood?

When you brush your teeth at night, take two minutes to think about your day. Ask yourself what went well and why.

2. Cooling down in stressful phases

If you feel pressured, find a quiet place to retreat. Start by paying careful attention to your breathing at this moment, just as it is: how long are you inhaling and exhaling? Once you have noticed your breath, make a point of breathing evenly: inhale slowly to the count of three and then exhale to the count of three. Focus on your breath and tune out your thoughts.

3. Keep your eyes on the goal

Write down what you want to achieve, and in doing so, avoid negative phrasing as well as coulds and woulds. Rather than, “I’d like to work out on Friday,” write, “On Friday at 7 a.m. I will work out for ten minutes.”

Try to surround yourself with reminders of your goals: put up pictures and sticky notes around your home, or keep your workout clothes where you can see them.

4. Visualize important results

Imagine you have already achieved your goal. How will that feel? Are you calm or energetic? Do you feel proud? Find a quiet place and try to walk through the outcome in your mind from start to finish, down to the smallest detail. If something goes wrong in the process, don’t stop – keep going!

And what’s the point of all of this?

The goal of this mental training is to help you call up the right frame of mind to perform well at critical moments. And to do this, you first have to know exactly what you want. By having mentally walked through all of the steps, you can practice your behavior. The advantage here is that you can also practice habits that you can’t actually really simulate as effectively in real life, such as giving a presentation or being in a competition. But by going over the process over and over again in your mind, you can start to form a habit. And this will help prepare you for difficulties that may arise.

Give it a try this evening when it comes time to brush your teeth – start practicing mindfulness.