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Mental Equipment
April 1998 Article

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Mental Equipment Archive

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Monitoring Your Mood

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Dr. John Murray

How has your mood been lately? Does your mood affect your game? This month, let's see how your mood compares with the moods reported by many successful elite competitors. Much like studying great players for ideas to improve your serve, your focus on mood will help you discover some terrific mental keys to success!

Defining Mood

Mood is usually defined as a transient feeling, emotional tone, or general attitude. As a temporary emotional state, mood fluctuates depending upon circumstances. For example, a disturbing phone call, new romance, or tennis championship could rapidly alter your mood. Mood is sensitive to inner experiences, environmental factors, and our appraisal of events, whether positive or negative. For some individuals mood remains relatively stable, while for others mood is much less predictable. Extreme mood disturbances are classified as psychological disorders (e.g., depression, bipolar disorder) and require the assistance of mental health professionals. For our purposes, let's focus on the mood patterns that occur every day among non-disturbed healthy athletes.

Mood - Performance Relationship

Take a moment to recall the last time you were in a great mood playing tennis (hopefully often!). Describe your feelings. How did you perform? Did the way you performed improve your mood, or did your emotional state help you play better? Although it is still too early to accurately predict competitive outcome from analyzing mood, studies show that certain mood patterns are quite common among elite athletes, and that successful athletes display these patterns more often than less successful athletes.

How do you measure your mood? One simple way is to carefully record your emotional states in a diary. Perhaps the most popular self-report measure of transient mood states is the Profile of Mood States (POMS), developed by McNair, Lorr and Droppleman in 1971. This questionnaire taps six mood dimensions including tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor-activity, fatigue- inertia, and confusion-bewilderment. I have found the POMS helpful in measuring the mood patterns of athletes from many sports including tennis, as well as with players on the 1996 national champion Florida Gators football team.

Research with the POMS shows that elite athletes score above normal on the vigor-activity scale and below normal on all other scales. A graphic depiction of these scores resembles an iceberg (vigor scale up, all others down), leading Bill Morgan to dub this the "iceberg profile." Although many elite athletes do not display this pattern, it shows up frequently enough to take notice. How would your own mood profile look next to the "iceberg?"

Enhancing Your Mood

Just as critical feedback regarding your serve, volley, and overhead is important, you should also start paying attention to your mood states and recording the influence that your mood has on performance. If you are new to this, begin by rating each of six dimensions of your current mood (anxiety, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion, and vigor-activity) on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = worst ever, 10=best ever). Based on this ranking, pick the mood you would like to work on by linking to the appropriate Mental Equipment article and refreshing your memory on aspects that might help. (Remember that these are just tips to help you perform better in sports. If you are experiencing significant problems with mood, seek professional assistance).

Just link below to your desired mood enhancer:

Send Me Feedback

As your mood and performance begin to change, I would like to hear from you. Let me know using this form which articles helped the most and which mood changes were most useful. Keep your chin up and I'll see you next month...

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Mental Equipment Archive

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This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.

Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.


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