Often we think of sports as physical pursuits and as things that we do with our bodies. After all we are running, jumping, hitting and throwing and generally exerting ourselves and this all requires physical effort from our bodies.
However what sports also are is exertion for our brain, and when you consider that it’s our brain that of course controls our movements, then it starts to become apparent just how much of an impact it can have on our ability if we fail to concentrate or if we’re anxious.
At the same time it suggests how useful it might be to train the brain to improve our game. Here we will look at some ways to do this and some methods that sports psychologists use in order to improve the abilities of athletes.
Visualisation: Visualisation is a very powerful tool that practically tricks the body and the brain into thinking that whatever you imagine is happening. This is a very powerful tool because it means you can then trigger changes in your body and hormones. One example of this is simply using visualisation to practice your golf swing – and by simply imagining you are hitting the ball your nerves will react as though you actually were which will enable you to improve your technique over time without needing space or even a golf club to do so.
Furthermore you can also use visualisation to improve the power and effectiveness of a shot. For instance if you image hitting it perfectly and imagine it soaring into the distance exactly where you want it to land, then this is in a way a ‘simulation’ and a simulation that your body can learn from.
Positive Affirmations: Affirmations can meanwhile help you to change your thought patterns regarding a certain subject which in turn can help you to overcome feelings of anxiety or nervousness that may be crippling you when it comes to an important putt. For instance telling yourself you have ‘all your abilities plus all the abilities of the opposition’ can help to flush you with confidence and make your aim that much truer. Another useful phrase to repeat is simply ‘I can take all the time I need’ which can really enable you to relax into the shot and not rush and therefore make silly mistakes.
Clearing Your Mind: Meanwhile sometimes just clearing your mind can help a great deal too. It’s when we over think things and it’s when we start worrying that we become much more likely to mess up. The secret is to concentrate on the ball and where you want it to go, but to also be serene in this concentration rather than anxious. This comes with practice, but simply practising meditation – trying to eliminate the thoughts that run through your head when you’re in a relaxed state – can help to give you better control of your own unhelpful thought patterns. Likewise you can use ‘CBT’ techniques to help clear your mind, before introducing the positive affirmations above.
Checklists: Sometimes a good way to calm your nerves but also to make sure you don’t forget your technique is to go through a check list. This can be something along the lines of ‘relax’, ‘make sure your feet are pointing the way you want to go’, ‘check your grip’, ‘eye on the hole’ etc. By running through these criteria you can use them as a safety net and a crutch, but at the same time you will this way not forget any of the things you’ve been taught.
Nik Cole is a freelance writer and blogger. He often plays at Calgary golf course and shares his experience via blogging about the game of Golf.