How and why does Mental Training work?

Basic Mental Training lead to positive effects on Wellbeing and Performance and with a systematic and regular use of Mental Training leads to long term and consisting positive effects on Health, Wellbeing and Performance.

In Mental Training we see Health as an optimal physiological, psychological and social wellbeing (WHO)

Unestahl Mental Training (UMT®)

UMT® is a systematic training of mental processes (Thoughts, Images, Attitudes, Feelings) with the purpose of obtaining “Optimal States of Being”

Basic Mental Training

UMT starts with the Basic Mental Training, which consists of two stages:

  1. Muscular relaxation and
  2. Mental relaxation


The term ”relaxation” is usually used both as a method (relaxation training) and as a goal. ( a relaxed state). The relaxed state can be reached through various methods (ways).

We will also distinguish between muscular and mental relaxation. However, the same operational definition can be used in both cases. Thus, Relaxation is defined as “absence of tension”

  1. On the muscular side “absence of muscular tension” and
  2. On the mental side “absence of mental tension (worry, anxiety, fear) or expressed in a positive way – the establishment of calmness, harmony and an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC)

Altered (or Alternative) State of Consciousness (ASC1)

ASC 1 consists of useful alternatives or complements to DSC 1(the Dominant State of Consciousness often called the “waking state”) where sleep (around 25-30% of Life) and Dream (around 6% of Life) are the most investigated states. However, the mental relaxation training also leads to an ASC, where images like in dreaming will be “real” for Mind and Body.

ASC 2 and ASC 3 It is an important difference between the ASC 1 of type sleep and dream (no or little control) and the Mental Relaxation ASC state. The last state is connected with ASC 2 (Alternative systems for Change) and ASC 3 (Alternative Systems of Control.) While DSC 3 (Dominant systems of Control) can be defined as “Voluntary effort” the Mental Relaxation state makes more effective changes possible by opening up for additional control systems like triggers and self-decided images (self-image, goal-images, etc).

Optimal States of Being (OSB)

The two main areas here is Waking and Sleeping. Even if there are differences between various waking state, we will focus on the “Optimal Sleeping State” (OSS) and the “Optimal Waking State”(OWS) and specially in relation to: “Muscular tension-relaxation”.

As we have defined Relaxation as “Absence of tension”, the OSS will be a relaxed state. However, if we were relaxed during waking, we should not be able to do anything.

Even sitting in a chair requires some muscle tension. So the optimal waking state is not relaxation. A new word for the muscular side of OWS was needed and it became the term “avspänning”. In order to be able to define “relaxation”, elite performers in Sport (over 20 national teams, etc) and Music (Swedish Radio Symphony orchestra, etc) were investigated after which the ideal muscular waking state (avspänning) was defined as: “A state with optimal tension in the synergists muscles and with relaxation of the antagonistic muscles” and the ideal waking mental state (the mental side of “avspänning g) as: : “A state with optimal activation and focus on the relevant stimuli and dissociation from the irrelevant stimuli.”

As there was just one word in English (Relaxation – “avslappning”) a new English word had to be created to cover the Swedish word “Avspänning”. The word became “Relaxense”
Thus, relaxation is the optimal state during sleeping and relaxense during waking, in order to reach relaxense, learning relaxation is a necessary first step.

Two kinds of tension

In terms of muscular tension, we can distinguish between”basic tension” and”situation tension”. Basic tension is a general tension all over the body while situation tension involves the muscles, which are related to the demands of the situation. During the first year of life relaxation is the “natural” state and when tension arises it has to do with hunger, pain, fear etc. (situation tension). Today, however, we can find a high “basic tension” among many already in the early teens.

A to high basic muscular tension have three main disadvantages during waking.

1. An energy leake causing fatigue

2. It causes a tension in the antagonistic muscles with decreased performance levels as a result

3. Pain as a result of the basic tension (the most common headache is “tension headache”)

A high basic tension during sleeping impairs the recovery functions of sleep.


Another key concept, closely related to Performance, Health and Wellbeing, is “Recovery”. Research findings ((Åkerstedt, Torbjörn, Kentte, Göran, etc.) can be summarized as: “We can work or train very hard without any negative effects if we get enough recovery”. On the other hand, if we lose or decrease our “recovery skills” we can get an CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) or become “burned out” also with a lower level of work/training.

An important part of effective recovery is the “deep sleep” or EEG delta period, the first 3-4 hours of sleep. This means that the quality of sleep is much more important than “sleep quantity”. No medicine exists that can restore a lost deep sleep. However, as a high basic tension (often further increased by various stress factors) seems to be a main factor to “low quality sleep”, the results of this study can be of great importance also in regard to better “recovery skills”. These skills can also be improved during waking by “power naps” in the day and by Mental Training techniques like triggers.