Thursday, 18 June 2015

Improve Your Golf Game While Sitting On the Couch. The Golf Mind Set Series – Issue 2

We all know that practice makes perfect. This is great in theory. However, a game of golf takes a big chunk of time out of your week. With an already busy life, it can be hard to get out on the course as much as you would like. In this blog, I’ll be showing you how you can improve your game of golf from the comfort of your own home. Sound good? Then read on.

This is the second blog in the Golf Mind Set Series. You will learn the power of mental rehearsal, the science behind the theory and how you can apply it to your game and see instant results.

If you have not yet read issue 1 you can do so here.

There is a huge amount of mind body interaction in golf and in sport in general. You’ve probably experienced this plenty of times, when your mind set is not right, your game is all over the place. Several interesting studies, including Kerkev. F. et al (2012), have tested groups of sports people. In most of the studies the subjects are split into three groups. One group practices every day. One group only imagines hitting the perfect shot or kicking the ball perfectly every day. The third group does nothing.

As you would expect, the first group (the ones who physically practice the sport every day) usually makes a significant improvement and the third group makes no improvement. However, interestingly, the second group, who had only imagined taking the throws or hitting the ball (depending on the sport) generally also makes a very significant improvement.

Isn’t that amazing? Just by visualising practising, the subjects in the study improved almost as much as those subjects who practiced every day.

So, how does this work? How did the second group show so much improvement without actually physically practicing? There are a few theories, but the leading theory is that, by practicing you are establishing set neural pathways in the brain related that specific task (e.g. throwing the ball into the hoop). When we imagine things, the same neural pathways become established, meaning we can repeat that action more easily and naturally in the future.

This strategy is known as visualisation or mental imagery. The golfer Jack Nicklaus regularly uses this strategy.

Here’s how you can do this:

1)      Get yourself into a nice relaxed state. You can do this by closing your eyes and taking several deep relaxing breaths. Alternatively, download a free copy of my Enter Hypnosis MP3 here.
2)      Imagine yourself on the golf course. Really imagine the scenery, who is with you, what you’re wearing etc.
3)      Engage all of your senses, notice what you see, hear and feel on the course. Take your time to make this as real and vivid as possible.
4)       Imagine yourself taking the perfect shot. Feel how you use your muscles when you swing. See the ball flying through the air on the perfect trajectory.
5)      Visualise the ball landing exactly where you wanted it to.
6)      Repeat as often as possible.

As well as reinforcing neural pathways, this also creates an expectation in your mind of being successful. If you are expecting to play well, it is far more likely that you will do so.

This is the second in a series of blogs about golf and mind set. Please leave comments and check out the other blog entries in this series.

For more about the power of visualization in sports performance check out the podcast with professional power lifter and gold medal winning Laura Shea here.

Friday, 5 June 2015

How To Use Your Mind To Overcome The Yips. The Golf Mind Set Series – Issue 1

Admittedly golf is never a life or death situation. However, if golf is your way of relaxing after a busy week at work, or if golf is your opportunity to socialize or network, then you want it to be as enjoyable as possible don’t you?
If you are a keen golfer, then you will already be aware of how much mind-body interaction there is in the game.

  • Have intrusive thoughts ever messed up a shot for you?
  • Do you overthink your swing?
  • If you make one mistake, does that affect the rest of your game?
  • Are you a better player when there is less pressure?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you can use the simple techniques discussed in this series of blogs, to improve your game.

Imagine how good that will be. You winning the game, sauntering to the club house with an air of importance usually only seen in young pop stars, casually shoehorning your score into every conversation, walking in slow motion as if you are in a TV advert for golf clubs. I know nobody likes a smug winner…..but who cares? Not you, you’re the winner!
OK, so maybe the above is a little over the top. But it certainly feels better to win your game than to lose right?

So what are the secrets? How do you use your mind to help you rather than hinder you on the golf course?

Let’s talk about the yips first. I’ve treated many experienced golfers who inexplicably start twitching or shaking when playing. Often this can start suddenly and is very frustrating. An almost universal trend seen in golfers suffering with the yips, is that it only happens when they are under pressure. It only happens when an important game is being played, not if they are practicing on their own.
What does this tell you?

Well, it tells you there is no physical issue. This issue is purely in the mind. Therefore, it is relatively easy to resolve. The problem happens when you are under pressure, about to take that big shot in an important game. That game when you definitely don’t want to look stupid in front of everyone. All this pressure activates your fight or flight response. Your fight or flight response (also called the sympathetic nervous response) is triggered when your mind perceives you are in danger. Your body then gets ready to run or fight. Clearly this is not the correct response when you want your fine motor skills to be at their best and to be cool and calm taking a shot.
So how can we fix this?

There is a wonderfully simply technique you can use. This technique (called Systematic Desensitization, to give it its fancy name) makes a new association in your mind, between taking the shot and feeling calm.
You can’t be very calm and very anxious at the same time. If you make a new, strong association in your mind between taking an important shot in an important game, and feeling calm, then you are removing the anxiety.

Here’s how to do this:

1) Get yourself into a lovely relaxed state, by downloading and listening to my free Enter Hypnosis MP3 here

2) When you are really relaxed, imagine you are playing an important game. Really imagine it as vividly as possible, as if you're actually there. Notice what you see, hear and feel.

3) All the time concentrate on relaxation and hold on to that level of relaxation.

4) Imagine the whole scenario all the way through to the end and see yourself hitting the perfect shot, over and over again.

5) Repeat as often as possible.

This technique works by pairing the feeling of calm relaxation with the scenario in your mind. It's impossible to feel relaxed and anxious at the same time so the association of relaxation replaces that of anxiety or pressure.

This is the first in a series of blogs about golf and mind set. Please leave comments and check out the other blog entries in this series.

For more about the power of visualization in sports performance check out the podcast with professional power lifter and gold medal winning Laura Shea here.