Mind Your Thoughts
As promised this week I'm going to delve deeper into Mindfulness to explain what it is and how it can help your performance. We've all seen the cartoon drawing of a golfer standing over the ball having hundreds of thoughts and not being able to decide what to do. And I'm sure most of you have at some time, suffered negative thoughts when your confidence needed to be strong and you ended up making a mistake. Telling someone not to think, is a crazy suggestion as it simply doesn't work. That's like saying don't think of a pink giraffe - sorry you've now got that image in your head. And to make matters worse the sport we have chosen to play, unlike others such as tennis and hockey, gives us more time to pay attention to our thoughts as we walk between golf shots. So much time to let our thoughts change the way we feel and impact the way we play. How many of you have fell into the trap after playing some great holes, drift off thinking about your winning speech, or focus on the mistake you made on the last hole only to wakeup 2 holes later and find you've now dropped several shots? Unfortunately such thoughts can lead to feelings of anger, excitement, frustration, fear etc, none of which help your performance. How can we reduce the impact of our thoughts? Learning how to reduce the impact of these thoughts with mindfulness techniques, can truly help you play with less emotion, stress and tension. Skills that you can use in business and life too. The great news is it can be learnt at any age or ability, applied anywhere and its for free! What is Mindfulness? "It's a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations." We all have thoughts throughout the day that come and go, giving them attention, gives them power to become emotions and change the way we feel. You might be surprised to find on average we have around 70,000 thoughts a day! That's quite a large number, but hopefully it goes to prove that most of them come and go without us paying any attention. Its only those we perceive as a potential threat or excitement that awaken our emotions and evoke a stress response, such as a nerves, tension or loss of focus. When you become mindful, you realise the thoughts are not the issue, its how you react to them that causes you problems. During a game of golf we can experience a raft of emotions, its only when we we give those thoughts power that we find ourselves riding the emotional roller coaster. And as we all know this does not make for great golf. How can we practice Mindfulness? Mindfulness gives us a way to watch our thoughts come and go instead of reacting to them. This is achieved by becoming more aware of our attention and learning to observe our thoughts from a distance, allowing us to chose how we respond rather than react. To achieve mindfulness we need to practice meditation - now don't become alarmed I'm not asking you to sit cross-legged on a cushion and chant. Taking as little as 10-20 mins a day can free you from your thoughts and feelings. Breaking the myths around meditation Meditation is not about stopping your mind from wandering, its more about becoming aware of where your mind is. Its natural for your mind to wander when meditating, when this happens simply bring it back to your breathing. Any negative thoughts that appear just let them pass and again focus back on your breathing tempo. Simply accept you're not your thoughts and therefore do not need to give them your attention. Over time you will find thoughts that would once distracted you, will no longer have the power. They will still crop up, but will simply come and go. Even negative thoughts will lose their power as you allow them to enter and disappear Mindful Breathing This can be done anywhere, you can chose to stand, sit or lie down. All you need to do is be still and focus on your breath. Try giving this a go, it will only take a minute or two
Start breathing in and out slowly and deeplyBreathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, allowing your breath to flow naturally, not forcedlet go of your thoughts . Let go of what needs to be done later or any pending 'to do' lists. Simply let your thoughts rise and fall, come in and out with your breathFocus on your breath, become aware of the sensation as it enters your nostrils, the flow of the air as it expands into your lungs.Then notice how it works its way up through your throat and out of your mouth, dissipating energy as it flowsNow I bet you were surprised how easy that was, try doing it for 5 mins building up to 15-20 minutes. Give mindfulness a go for the next week, make it a daily routine. I find doing it either first thing or last thing at night works best. Having a dedicated time makes it easier to form a habit. During the winter months is a great time to start to get your mind ready for the new season. Gradually over the weeks you will begin to notice a difference, you'll find yourself feeling calmer and more present and not reacting to negative thoughts.
If you would like to learn more about the mental side of the game visit our website and get in touch. Hope you enjoyed this week's blog, please drop me an email and let me know what you think, I would love to hear from you. Visit our website and check out our other blogs, there's something in there for everyone.