What is the connection between the mind and the body? Are they somehow related, do they affect each other? Is the mind in charge of the body or vice versa? Do we manage to keep our body in good shape by keeping our mind in a good shape as well?
We often think about this questions and I think that the best way to give some clear examples about the interaction between the mind and the body is one specific area called Sports psychology. We should first understand that sports psychology is an interdisciplinary science. Besides psychology, it is also concerned with disciplines such as biomechanics, physiology, and kinesiology. These are the disciplines that deal with the human body, it’s function, the motion of our body etc. Sport Psychology addresses the interactions between psychology and sport performance, including the psychological aspects of optimal athletic performance, the psychological care and well-being of athletes, coaches, and sport organizations, and the connection between physical and psychological functioning.
What I find extremely important in this area is the topic of motivation, as well as emotional intelligence among all the professional athletes. We often see situations where many sports stars are underperforming during important matches even though their physical condition is great and they’ve practiced their game a lot. What we can’t see, on the other side, is the psychological pressure that they deal with during that particular match (before and after the match as well) and the mental stability that they need to achieve in order to allow their body to give the best performance. This is just a simple example of how the mind can affect one’s body performance and the effect is completely invisible for the outer environment. And this is exactly what falls under the tasks and responsibilities of a profession called Sports Psychologist. Based on this definition, sports psychologists can participate in various activities, mostly focused on working to understand what motivates athletes and how athletes can improve their performance. These activities can range from counseling athletes who might have anxiety issues that hamper their performance to instructing athletes (individually or in groups) on methods of mental conditioning (e.g., visualization, concentration and relaxation) to helping athletes deal with injuries. To put all of this in another way, a sport psychologist is working from the perspective that success in sports relies on both the body and mind.
For all the young psychologists out there, interested in pursuing a career in sports psychology, the best way to become a part of this particular area is by obtaining a bachelor degree in general psychology followed up by a master or a doctoral program in either the similar area or in different sciences close to it like kinesiology, sports medicine, marketing etc. However it is very important not to jump into it straight away and check all the possibilities that this area can offer. In my opinion the best course of action is to engage into an internship that will serve as a pre-contact between the individual and the future profession.
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Tiana Ivanovska is a graduated Psychologist and Masters student on Strategic Management of HR. She is also a Gestalt therapist under supervision. She loves retro music, video games, nature and simplicity. She is participating in a summer internship programme at Willingness.com.mt.