The emerging field of positive psychology has gained a lot of interest in the recent years. Positive psychology has been proven to promote happiness in many individual’s lives as well as reinforce their personal feelings of self-worth. The use of positive psychology can be applied to multiple aspects of an individual’s life, making it a universal approach to happiness and less stress. One major group of individuals that can effectively carry out the use of positive psychology is athletes. Instilling and educating coaches and players about this approach could help players deal with the immense amount of pressure the players go through.
Professional athletes obviously take on more pressures than younger players, but the use of positive psychology can help athletes of all ages. Positive psychology is becoming an emerging field of study within psychology with growing interest. Positive psychology is cutting edge to the psychology field because it is the first branch that focuses on the positive assets and values of an individual instead of trying to treat a mental illness. The mission of positive psychology is to develop sound theories of optimal functioning and to find empirically supported ways to improve the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people.
To address this, the first author proposed, during his term as President of the American Psychological Association in 1998, that psychology be just as concerned with what is right with people as it is with what is wrong. As a supplement to the vast research on the disorders and their treatment, we suggest that there should be an equally thorough study of strengths and virtues, and that we should work towards developing interventions that can help people become lastingly happier (Parks, Saligman, Steen 2004).
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Positive psychology is primarily concerned with using the psychological theory, research and intervention techniques to understand the positive, adaptive, creative and emotionally fulfilling aspects of human behavior. Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. It is a call for psychological science and practice to be as concerned with strength as with weakness; as interested in building the best things in life as in repairing the worst; and as concerned with making the lives of normal people fulfilling as with healing pathology (Peterson 2008).
The most important thing in life is happiness and that is what this very approach is promoting. A life with more happiness is a life that many individuals want, but don’t realize how easy it is to acquire it. The increased stress of competitions can cause athletes to react both physically and mentally in a manner that can negatively affect their performance abilities. They may become tense, their heart rates race, they break into a cold sweat, they worry about the outcome of the competition, or they can find it hard to concentrate on the task in hand.
This has led coaches to take an increasing interest in the field of sport psychology and in particular in the area of competitive anxiety. That interest has focused on techniques that athletes can use in the competitive situation to maintain control and optimize their performance. Once learned, these techniques allow the athlete to relax and to focus his or her attention in a positive manner on the task of preparing for and participating in competition. Psychology is another weapon in the athlete’s armory in gaining the winning edge.
Many people in today’s society are claiming to be stressed out or in some state of depression. With much of the population stating this, it has become an interest to look into. It is known that it is normal for our overall health to decline as the aging process occurs. However, things like stress and depression can act like a catalyst and speed this process up much faster. This is why positive psychology is so important to our present society. Positive psychology works to decrease or even diminish those feelings of depression, stress, and self-doubt.
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It is a unique approach that has been proven to promote happiness, positive emotions, and positive feelings. There is much research that suggests that happiness is also a means toward higher levels of overall success. Using positive psychology can promote happiness, which, in return, will lead to more overall success in an individual’s life (Ben-Shahar 2007).
By using the positive psychology approach an individual can lower stress while improving personal biological and spiritual health.
Another advantage point to positive psychology is that it can be applied to many aspects of an individual’s life. Positive psychology can be applied to education, the workplace, and in relationships (Ben-Shahar 2007).
Athletes for example, are a group of individuals who could really benefit from positive psychology. Athletes of all ages and skill type experience some sort of pressure while playing their beloved sport. Younger athletes could feel pressure from coaches, teammates, and even parents. If you’re a parent or coach, you probably have an opinion about youth sports.
You might think that sports help children develop teamwork skills, self-confidence, resiliency, moral character, and other personal strengths. Or you may see a dark side to youth sports, believing that young athletes develop aggressive traits like bullying and the need to dominate their opponents on and off the field. The proponents of youth sports often make blanket statements about the benefits of sports, leading parents to believe that if the young athlete doesn’t make the team, they may not achieve happiness or develop positive strengths needed to succeed in life.
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Some believe the positive hype around youth sports is spread by adults who either blindly accept the notion that sports are good for all kids or who are in the business of developing high-performing athletes (Price-Mitchell 2012).
Youth sports can be one of the greatest character builders of any young individual. For young athletes, like the one mentioned above who did not make the team, positive psychology is huge. The young athlete is naturally going to have some negative feelings, but needs to be picked up by parents or a coach. You don’t have to be a professional athlete or an Olympic champion to be a successful athlete.
Nor do you have to have a room full of trophies, win a state championship, or make the front page of the sports section. Successful athletes also include an eleven year-old figure skater who has not yet won a competition, a high school golfer with a zero handicap, a middle-aged runner whose goal is to complete her first marathon, a weight lifter who holds several world records, and an Olympic medalist (Lesyk 1998).
Professional athletes on the other hand, have much more stress to deal with. Professional athletes have to deal with the pressure of being trading, competitive salaries, and things of this nature.
Exercising positive psychology would be a great way to reduce their stress and elevate their health. With the absence of stress athletes can then focus on their game and perform at peak levels. Positive psychological interventions can be implemented in many ways in the sporting environment. For instance, research on self talk has shown that positive self talk aids performance. Self talk can be linked closely to a pessimistic explanatory style (Morris 2013).
Positive psychology promotes areas such as optimism, stress management, resilience and coping abilities.
All of these aspects are important for athletes as they are key traits needed for sporting performance. Many studies like the one mentioned above have looked into the role of optimism and attribution style in sports. This shows that optimists try harder and perform better under pressure. The athletes are not the only ones that should be responsible for carrying out positive psychology; this is where the coaches come into play. Athletes spend the majority of their time with coaches, trainers, and teachers trying to improve their game. It is extremely important for these coaches and teachers to be educated in positive psychology.
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If the teachers and coaches as well as the athletes are educated about positive psychology, then the relationship and the experience will be healthy. Old school methodology, and hard-nosed tough guy approaches in coaching are not only antiquated but they are ineffective, inefficient, and miss huge opportunities to allow the athlete to train him or herself mentally (Walker 2012).
If you’re a sports fan of any type, you have heard about athletes leaving teams or being traded because the athlete and coach could not see eye to eye. These are prime examples why the use of positive psychology is so vital.
What is even more appalling is when youth athletes quit for this reason. Young athletes are simply playing the sport because of the positive emotions and feelings they get while playing it. It is terrible when you hear about a promising young athlete who quit because of complications with the coach or feelings of self-doubt. Self-doubt can be very hard for a young player to overcome. Mental toughness in youth sports is imperative. Being mentally weak can bring a stop to any athlete’s career, but if they exercise positive psychology, their mental toughness could soar. The number one mental weakness for athletes is called pressing.
Pressing is when an athlete thinks he or she has control over something they do not. Athletes think this because they have been told numerous times by coaches, trainers, and teachers to be positive. Young athletes think that by being positive they can control uncontrollable aspects of the game. An example of pressing would be when a hockey player says he can place his shot anywhere he wants it. He thinks he can do this because he has been told to stay positive. In his mind being positive is controlling his shot. However, to a certain extent the shot cannot be controlled, and if it could be controlled there would never be any mistakes.
When athletes start thinking they can control things, they also start pressing. Pressing is basically the opposite of believing and trusting in yourself. When athletes start pressing they sacrifice their quality of play by robbing their self of their innate ability to relax, trust their body, and bring out your best (Brown 2010).
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Pressing is a major problem for youth athletes that could be solved by positive psychology. A coach could practice positive psychology on a player with these problems to bring them out of their “slump” and begin their “hike” back to a high quality of play.
By being taught how to escape the pressure of pressing oneself, the athlete can then perform better and enjoy the experience much more easily. There is no question that success in sports is a result of hard-work and good genes but finding the motivation to persevere, especially during tough times, is not that easy. It is important for young athletes to have a positive relationship with their coaches and teachers. The relationship between young athletes and coaches should build trust and should be athlete oriented. It is important that young athletes and coaches talk about goals and revealing strengths.
The main difference that youth coaches should focus on is the athlete’s thought process, emotions and values, rather than on how technique, tactics and physical conditioning relate to a player’s performance. Creating a balance in an athlete’s life is an important component of being happier and resilient for both players and their families. If more coaches were educated in positive psychology, they could instill these approaches on young players. This could ultimately lead to a young athlete meeting his or her life goal.
The coach can also gain a sense of accomplishment by knowing that they played an important role in that athlete’s career. As you have read, positive psychology has numerous advantages when applied to the many aspects of an individual’s life. The simple positive psychology approach can eliminate many burdens an individual has during his day-to-day life. It has proven over and over again to eliminate self doubt and stress, and since the majority of our population is reporting to have some kind of stress and or depression, positive psychology is more important now than ever.
Like stated above, athletes of all ages can benefit from positive psychology. If coaches and players alike can become educated about positive psychology, the sports we love can once again become a fulfilling activity instead of a business, like it has become. During this process of applying positive psychology individuals can then feel the negative weight that has been lifted from their bodies, while their individual health increases. Positive psychology is a great way to promote happiness, increase self worth, and self well being.
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