Most agree that golf’s a cerebral game, so it makes sense to play with more brainpower in mind. Luckily we retain 90% more by teaching others as we learn ourselves, so it also makes sense for novice golfers to teach what they learn here to other wanna-be golfers. The following article is part of a new book about anxiety that holds us back, and 50 brain based tools that move us mentally and emotionally from fear into fun and freedom.
Lesser known is the fact that stress-free golf benefits us mentally, and emotionally if we compete only against ourselves in ways that make it toxic free. Yes, when we nudge anxiety out of play, and stop comparing our skills to others, we begin to literally raise our golf IQ. Below is a three point brain based anxiety-free algorithm, that ensures we are not focused on others, and only wish any golfers well as we confidently grow our skills alongside them.
1.Shoot for a higher target than we typically land, not what others’ land. Need a birdie to remain under par? Then shoot for an eagle. Without anxiety, our brain leaps to challenges and can create new synapses that stretch our swings to the next level. From that first shot off the tee, stress free golfers capitalize on kinesthetic intelligence and naturalistic intelligence. Without anxiety, our game also adds brain chemicals for sharper focus. A growing body of research suggests how the links hold mental benefits for emotions and brains, beyond what most golfers realize. Perhaps more even than rich alliances and friendships gained on the course, golf keeps us in top mental form, if we compete against self only, and congratulate others to ensure we enjoy the fun of growing alongside every level of player.
2. Laugh lots and make light of our missed shots. Not only does that help others relax while we learn, it opens us to growth and sheer enjoyment regardless of how we are hitting. To keep serotonin high for the next good whack, use laughter as a fuel for a better ride on the next round. According to this YouTube video a new hazard – a fox – is now in full operation at Missoula, Montana Golf Course, near Clark Fork River Lodge. This fifteen pound red fox is outwitting golfers at almost every hole and its fairways heists keep the most serious golfers in stitches. It seems the little hoodwink fox is seen as a nuisance to a few poor sports yet laughed at by most golfers at the club, who take their shot and then take their chances against the 4-footed thief. What makes you laugh before you swing? With fellow golfers be blessed because of the fun we add to their game and ours? If so, we are likely setting aside anxiety for the joy of awe in a game we love! If not, why not keep track of our words spoken on the course and laughter we trigger for golf fun and growth.
3. Conquer one hole at a time, and do not compare our game to others’ good shots. Not only will others feel the anxiety, but we will bank extra points for the tougher holes and with our serotonin deposit in the right place, we’ll relax to ward off stress before we swing for harder holes. Cortisol chemicals escalate if we feel envious of another’s swing, or angry at our own shot. A surge in brains under anxiety’s pressure works against our golf skills, and fellow golfers’ games. If we get better shots on the front nine, for instance, we can work harder for fewer strokes, and then treat the back nine as our learning curve, when stress stays at bay. Challenges that often don’t exist in the first 9 holes tend to pop in the last 9 to give us practice shot opportunities from many angles, if we can snip our amygdala and deliberately leave anxiety behind before we even start the game. Rather than resent the back 9 – we can see it as a way to improve our stress-free brains for a better game. Now there’s a hole-in-one-thought that offers us practice opportunities to grow new skills and encourage every fellow golfer to do the same. If we start our game with this winning plan in mind it will help us to keep our head down and swing through though – while being kind to ourselves and others, even on the back nine!
4. Watch fellow players and expect growth regardless of age. If we avoid feeling jealous of any other golfers, or anxious because we compare ourselves to their expertise, we set the stage for going to school on another’s good shots. Our brain comes equipped with mirror neurons and we can improve our golf skills and optimize our brainpower for better swings at any age or level of play. Simply observe what swings work well for others, while remembering to congratulate them when the swing goes well. That anxiety free state frees us to golf well in the worst of times.
In spite of a recent bout with cancer, Marjorie Brewer at 60, still swings a driver like a pro and putts like a metronome. She’s out four times a week near the grounds of her law office, and other golfers love to play with her. People far younger struggle to keep up in one of the persistent mysteries of even an aging brain. Marjorie found there are tremendous health care benefits to doing what she loves most and doing it without anxiety. No wonder golf helps her health to improve, and others enjoy the ride. But golfers also see and learn from Marjorie’s high-performance mind for golf that keeps improving with use. In much the same way, at 58, Murray Jensen expected golf and his healthy attitude to help his brain to show positive effects of sheer fun, in spite of cardiovascular disease. Murray’s doctor seemed surprised by the mental progress and new alertness that boosted Murray’s once frail health. What could a golf game do for our minds if we leave behind comparison, fear, or anxiety and play for fun and delight?
5. Spot and name possibilities rather than dwell on challenges. Focus on new developments for our swing, and our brains begin to overcome difficulties that impede our swing. When others hear us speaking growth, and fun, and possibilities – their games also improve through serotonin we toss out and anxiety we refuse. When one hit or putt fails, the anxious-free mind will focus more on improving the next shot – perhaps with a different club. This might be a good time to watch for a fine shot to the tee others made as a way to encourage serotonin into the round. Regardless of how many obstacles may impede our swing, plan another brisk round of golf’s sheer adventure and we will add new skills to our cache. See the opportunity in spite of any difficulties and golf’s a mental tonic becomes our treat. How so? Golf allows us to capitalize on kinesthetic intelligence and it develops a better brain for other life-challenges and for balance in other areas of our lives, than most golfers realize. It helps us to mentor others in ways that add fun and not frustration to their challenges.
6. Risk new moves or settings to gain another skill with each game. Try a new approach rather than fall into the brain’s penchant to default for mental ruts and repeat the same mistakes on a difficult hole. Put yourself into a tournament, or play with far better players without demeaning their game by comparisons, and we win regardless of any shots we miss. Think back to a recent lesson, or to a golf tip we heard, and deliberately give it a shot. Laugh at the results and try again! The human brain performs better with novelty and risk. When we consider long term benefits that follow from risk and novelty we’ll likely find courage to move our golf skills to the next level. Worth the risk?
7. Pack brain food and walk rather than ride to keep up mental and emotional energy. Do whatever it takes to keep it fun for all. Plan ahead! Be deliberate! Improve our stamina with movement and mental nutrition during our next game. Expect our nourished brain to remain fast, our swings to stay strong and our mind to come alert for delight and fun in new challenges, while we build new neuron pathways to golf skills for lower scores and less anxiety. Interestingly, the brain demands 21 percent of the entire oxygen to our body? Not surprisingly when we move more through walking, we enrich that supply and add to our brain’s potential to sidestep stress and help other golfers do the same.
8. Swing as if to win a top tournament and then laugh at results! Be ready to accept mishaps as if they didn’t matter a wit, so that others golfers can enjoy whatever shot they made. Why? We know from neurogenesis that people improve their lot by beliefs moved into winning tasks. We also know that self-competition rather than pitting our skills against others, reshapes human brains when golfers act to improve their own skills and encourage others good shots. How so? Swing those extra yards, putt a finer approach, Angle a better loft, or chip into the cup, and we literally reshape our brain chemically and electrically for higher intelligence. Even simple competitive practice, can alter our brainwaves up or down for magic or misery. Choose magic in spite of where the shot lands!
9. Support peers and practice thankfulness so that others can also begin another anxiety free round. Encouragement to ourselves and our fellow golfers adds serotonin and well being to every round of golf – those that go well, and those that don’t. How so? Serotonin opens new ideas and possibilities, when we need help most. This hormone for well-being is essential to a good game and it is increased on the links when we simply expect it to help ourselves and others out. Deliberately build more serotonin mental-well-being on the golf course today… by wishing others well as they approach the tee. Imagine great shots whenever we take another swing, say and apply the three step algorithm, and refuse to focus on bad shots or others nearby. It takes reminders to our brains until we form of habit of playing without stressing. Look forward in favor of a lesson learned for the next mentally controlled swing.
10. Compete against our own game and cheer on others at every round. Whenever we focus too much on another golfer’s good score, regret over our own is sure to leave our own next shot short. Others also pick up on the anxiety that stress adds to the game for all. Regret prevents skill growth. Rather than fight despair by comparing our own struggles to another person’s wins, it’s better to mentally spike each swing in ways that improve our weaker moves, and build on growing strengths. The next time we grab a box of your favorite golf balls and head out for the links, visualize that best shot from the tee, and then compete against that shot for golf that follows from a high performance mind we’ll all enjoy on the tee.
Ready for a golf game well under par? Find a fun – ready to use – brain based golf curriculum to help novice golfers and mentor others – with our brains in mind. No prep needed – tasks to engage others as they learn to swing. Let us know how you fare, and how we can help you, as we’re rooting for you all the way from the algorithmic swing to the final green.
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Created by Ellen Weber, Brain Based Tasks for Growth Mindset