How to be relaxed and confident at the crease
Imagine having a button you can press on the cricket pitch that shuts your stress down, while leaving you in full control.
In fact, you can have one of these buttons.
It's called an 'anchor' and the idea is based entirely on the most famous successful psychological experiment in history.
Anton Petrovich Pavlov won a Nobel Prize in 1904. He is remembered for his experiment showing that if a bell is rung whenever food is shown to a dog, in due course the dog will begin to salivate when the bell is rung without the food being present.
Later it was realised that the principle involved was simple enough to be translated into a tool for self assistance. In short, it is possible to train yourself to relax immediately in any situation: Including in the middle.
The method is straightforward and suitable for use on your own. With practice, the same method can be used to place any emotional response at your fingertips - a feeling of confidence under pressure, for instance.
7 Steps to cricket confidence and relaxation
- Plan. Choose a unique physical gesture that you can perform anywhere (e.g. touching two fingers together and a word or phrase to repeat to yourself in your thoughts when triggering the anchor. Any word will do so long as you don't use it in other contexts all the time. Make your choices carefully, but don't agonise over them - they're completely private to you, after all.
- Prepare. Next you need to remember a relaxing experience in your past. Think of a time you remember to have been full of peace, tranquility, carefree feelings and lightness of heart. If you can't remember one, imagine what might have been one, had you undergone it. My relaxing experience is sitting down leaning against the scorebox at my old cricket club on a warm breezy summers day after a good net. When you have come up with your relaxing experience, think of what might have made it even more relaxing. Don't worry if the additional factors bear no resemblance to reality. I imagined that my loved ones and I were immortal and impervious to bad luck, illness and injury. All of this incorporated into the initial experience heightened the relaxation response I felt in mind and body considerably. Unlike me, you don't have to tell anyone what you are adding to your experience, so it won't matter what anyone else thinks about it.
- Experience. Now that you have enhanced your relaxation experience, step into it in your mind and live through it. Pay attention to the progress of your feelings and emotions. You will find that you start to feel more and more relaxed, until you reach a peak of relaxation. Then the experience reaches a plateau, and after a while it begins to fade a little. As soon as this happens, come back to the present moment, and return to a neutral emotional state.
- Repeat. Do this two or three times, until you are confident that you know when the experience is about to peak. You may wish to experiment with changing elements in the experience to make it even more relaxing. Once you are sure of the moment just before the peak, you are ready to create the anchor.
- Anchor. You have your unique gesture and your unique phrase. Go into your relaxing experience once more, and just before the experience reaches its peak, make your gesture and say your phrase. Then allow the experience to peak before coming out of it.
- Repeat Again. Repeat this process at least ten times, taking care to make the gesture and say the phrase just before the peak of the experience.
- Test. Now without assuming any particular attitude, make your gesture and say your phrase. What happens?
If the anchor has been correctly installed, you should feel yourself entering into a more relaxed state. Your new state will be more relaxed than your previous state, but if your previous state was one of extreme terror, say, you will still end up feeling less relaxed than if you fired your anchor when merely mildly stressed.
Your anchor will improve with use. Your brain will become accustomed to causing relaxation on the cricket pitch, more and more, with practice.
This post on the proven confidence boosting technique was developed thanks to an email from sport psychologist James Hamilton. James kindly sent me an old article of his and allowed me to rework it to make it more cricket specific.
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