Mental Aspects of Sport Performance

The common phrase “the game is 95% mental” is well known, but hardly respected at least as measured by the amount of time one works on the mental side of any sport. For those professional and amateur athletes who perform at the highest levels, the common thread to their excellence is the mastery of the mental part of their work or game.

I watched the Masters’ Golf Tournament and took away a deep appreciation again of the significance of the mental part of the game. Indeed, the mental part of the game can completely alter a highly proficient mechanical or physical part of the game. Consider the major leaguer who falls into a slump, a professional golfer who cannot hit a three foot putt, and the professional basketball player who cannot drain the fifteen foot foul shot. This is despite the fact that these professionals are the best on the planet and can achieve success at these tasks 98% of the time.

The Masters’ typically begins on Sunday and the last nine holes. This is the time when the mental aspect of the game really becomes paramount, though clearly the mental part of the golf game is always important. Perhaps it is the nearing of the end of the tournament, the amount of fame derived from winning this major tournament, or the fear of failure that cause the execution of the swing or putt to drift. Truly, the ability to put all of these and other mental distractions to the side and mentally focus on the execution of what the professional has done thousands of times represents the road to success and victory.

That the greatest athletes on the planet can be so affected, negatively and positively, by the mental energy and focus of the game is impressive. The human brain’s ability to harness and focus this energy, to not get distracted, to remain confident in the execution of the mechanics, and to see success will always be in the winner’s circle no matter what profession we are discussing.

Hit em straight!

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Caloric Restriction and Memory

We have known for some time that caloric restriction relates to longevity and functional health in animals. This has been well documented and discussed in previous blogs from Fit brains. However, the issue of whether caloric restriction also benefits humans has been less clear. It’s also obvious and important to note how difficult caloric restriction can be for humans, particularly when such reduction in calories is significant.

Much work is done on the quality of what is consumed when one reviews the many dietary plans offered on the market. Less is focused on the quantity and it is generally true that those living in western nations over-consume. This has resulted in an alarming increase in obesity and diabetes, including a significant number of cases emerging in childhood.

The balance of sugars and insulin in our bodies is very important. An unhealthy balance can lead to diabetes and multiple other medical problems, some of which affect the brain such as stroke and dementia. We now know that what we eat affects both the structure and function of our brain and more attention is now focused on both the quality and quantity of our diets.

Can Exercising Your Brain Prevent Memory Loss?

Scientists all over the world are starting to agree that stimulating the brain can improve brain power. Numerous studies show that activities such as interactive games can help maintain key cognitive functions.

According to a new study presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 61st Annual Meeting, participating in certain mental activities, like reading magazines or crafting in middle age or later in life, may delay or prevent memory loss. The study involved 197 people between the ages of 70 and 89 with mild cognitive impairment, or diagnosed memory loss, and 1,124 people that age with no memory problems.

The study found that during later years, reading books, participating in computer activities, playing games and doing craft activities such as pottery or quilting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing memory loss compared to people who did not do those activities.

To read the full article

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Practical Tips for Improving Language

Language is perhaps the most important cognitive function we possess after memory. An argument can even be made that it is more critical than memory because we need language first to learn or encode any new information. Regardless, there is little doubt that language serves a fundamental neurobiological and psychological need for the human being.

It is common to experience slips in language processing including word finding and name recognition as we enter our forties or fifties. This is normal and probably relates more to stress and being hurried than anything pathologic. Our vocabulary tends to remain fixed which is nice, but we have the ability to grow our library of words at any age. Our verbal fluency or speed of expressing words also slows down with advanced age, but this is not necessarily a problem and may even be of value. Our ability to read and write remains intact, though our ability to comprehend what we read may not be as efficient.

So, what are some practical mental exercises that you can do to boost up your language skills?

1. Reading everyday including the dictionary is one good way to increase your  vocabulary. With an increased vocabulary other parts of language such as word  finding and fluency will improve.

2. Practice reviewing the names of your friends and peers by mentally associating a  name with their face. You can also engage in a fun exercise in which you place  unfamiliar pictures of faces on a table, apply a written name to each and then  repeat each association until you no longer need the written names to recall the  correct name for each face.

3. Take any letter of the alphabet and try and state aloud as many words as you can  that begin with that letter in 60 seconds. With practice you may notice that your  list of  words generated gets longer.

4. Write a short segment on your day’s experience in a journal. This will help your  articulation and emotional skills while practicing the motor skill of writing. Some  research suggests that writing with passion have been known to live a longer  life.

5. Write with a focus on increased ideas per sentence as research suggests this is  good for the brain.

6. Work on your public speaking as this is a wonderful exercise to stimulate the  brain and engage it in a complex, but fun language exercise. Talk about what you  love and your anxiety will be reduced. Most let the anxiety prevent them from  trying!

7. Crossword puzzles are fine as they promote reading and vocabulary. The same is  true for word search games.

8. Name objects that you see on your way to work or the store. Object naming is a  good mental exercise.

9. Work on the art of story telling.

10. FitBrains.com offers some good mental exercises for language. These include