The Silent Treatment
Why meditation could be just what your game needs
Mindfulness meditation – staying quietly in the present – has been shown to increase creativity, the ability to manage pain and the power to relieve anxiety. For golfers, the last one might be most important.
There are as many kinds of meditation as there are coffees at Starbucks. Some meditators focus on numbers, phrases or mantras. They even meditate as they walk, counting footfalls. Some sit quietly and concentrate on the sounds around them.To start, keep it simple: Sit upright, close your eyes and focus on your breath – the flow of air, the expansion of your chest in and out.When your mind wanders, notice that, and bring it back to your breath. “It’ll take about two breaths before the thoughts start,” laughs tour pro Luke Donald, who says returning to meditation in 2014 helped him recover control over his mindset and mood at a time when he was in a freefall from his No 1 ranking.
You don’t need shrines, special rooms or lotus pillows. “The easier, the more portable, the more practical, the better,” says Dan Harris, whose on-air panic attack on “Good Morning America” more than a decade ago led to 10% Happier, a book about his experience.
Wherever you do it, try to do it regularly, say, 10 minutes a day. Donald says his new strategy is three little sessions of five minutes each day.
Psychologist Michael Gervais, whose clients include Donald, says the point isn’t just awareness. It’s insight.“For some golfers, the ultimate insight might be: It’s just a game. But you start by becoming aware of your emotions, body sensations and the unfolding environment.” Harris talks about “investigating” what you notice and feel. “Practising mindfulness helps you lean into feelings, accept them rather than fight them,” he says.“That’s when the magic happens.”
Naturally there are apps for this. Some “game” the process, allowing you to measure how long you focus before your mind wanders. Check out Headspace, Muse, Harris’ 10% Happier and Opti-Brain, an app built on the Muse software by sport psychology consultant Debbie Crews. She put brainwave-measuring headbands on teachers at last year’s PGA show, demonstrating how much better they putted when they got their brainwaves to a resting state.
So now ... sit up straight. Close your eyes.Take a deeeeeep breath ... and let the birdies come.