Being a top-level athlete requires much more than just excellent physical condition. Mental preparation plays a crucial role in sporting success, enabling athletes to become active and autonomous in their personal development, acquiring greater self-knowledge and practical tools to manage their mental state. Derived from neuroscience techniques, this method provides athletes with a way of releasing their full potential and effectively managing stress and emotions.

Managing the stress and apprehension associated with smoking cessation is an important issue for people wishing to stop smoking. Mental trainers can help smokers develop stress management techniques to help them overcome cravings and craving. By changing the way they deal with these critical moments, smokers can find a way to reduce the negative emotions associated with withdrawal and increase their chances of success.

One of the key methods used by Jean-Damien Dehoux, tobaccologist and mental trainer for athletes, is mental imagery.

This cognitive technique is the ability to imagine a movement or task mentally, without physically executing it. The brain makes little distinction between imagination and reality, and considers a mentally simulated action to be true.

Patrouille de France pilots are experts in mental imagery, practicing it before every flight to help them memorize a trajectory. By perfecting a gesture mentally, it is easier to put it into action, which in turn boosts the pilots’ confidence during the flight. In this way, mental imagery provides tools for better emotional management and stress reduction.

Generally speaking, when an athlete is under stress in relation to a competition, he or she is likely to focus on one or more ideas that are inappropriate to the smooth running of his or her performance: visualizing a bad move, seeing himself or herself fail, etc.

If we draw a parallel with quitting smoking, many smokers experience negative thoughts as soon as they stop: “I’ll go crazy if I don’t smoke”, “I’m afraid I’ll suffer from nicotine withdrawal”, “I won’t be able to do it”, etc. Many smokers dread the thought of quitting, and fear that they’ll have to quit again. Many smokers fear they won’t be able to cope with stressful situations after they’ve stopped smoking.

Mental imagery in the context of smoking cessation helps to chase away harmful thoughts by focusing on the sensory perception of the human body. Take an example from Jean-Damien Dehoux:

“Regain control and focus your attention on a tingling sensation in your hands. Direct your attention to your hands. Visualize them and try to feel a tingling sensation in your palms and fingers. By concentrating on this sensation, the blood circulation will be felt.
This information will distract you from the urge to smoke. Repeat this exercise every time you feel the urge to smoke. The more you practice, the more natural and effective this technique will become in diverting your attention from the urge to smoke.”

Mental imagery has the advantage of being a non-invasive treatment, without side effects and inexpensive, making its clinical use appreciable. Despite the pharmacological revolution in mental health in recent decades, non-pharmacological and non-invasive treatments remain less costly and just as effective, if not more so, as demonstrated by various studies on post-traumatic stress and depression. The mental imagery approach also has the advantage of being focused on concrete elements.

Consulting a mental trainer enables you to change your perspective and adopt appropriate self-hypnosis techniques. The aim is to get out of the dilemma between “reasonable” and “unreasonable” by focusing on mastering emotions and sensations, rather than focusing solely on the rational dimension.

The strength of the mental trainer’s approach lies in his or her ability to tailor support to individual needs and preferences. The methods used are similar for each stage of smoking cessation (beginning of withdrawal, maintenance of abstinence). These techniques use knowledge of how the brain works to help understand smokers’ behavior and discover how their minds work.

Ultimately, says Jean-Damien Dehoux, the role of the mental trainer goes far beyond improving sporting performance. Whether for athletes or people wishing to quit smoking, mental preparation offers invaluable tools for mastering the mind, managing stress and emotions, and achieving personal goals. It’s a growing field that deserves a great deal of attention in the field of health and well-being.

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Arnaud PictetGrazia Ceschi (2018)

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