Get Better at Golf by Getting Out of your Head Part 2
Triggers to your Flow state
Have you ever nonchalantly shot a paper ball into a trash can from 20 feet and put it right in the center of the bin? Of course you have and then you try another and it almost always misses. What's going on there? This article hopes to arm you with some tools and info to help you access that "super golfer" that resides in you.
What is Flow?
Flow is where you feel and perform at your best. Your brain filters out everything that is not necessary and focuses only on what is important at the time.
Seems so easy doesn't it? But most us have brains that race from thought to thought and focusing on one thing for more than ten seconds is a massive effort and seems boring. LOL. Know this it is hard for everybody and practicing being "thoughtless" sucks at first, is not fun and it seems to be a waste of time.
Here is a free app to build up your focus power. Really worth checking out and with a little practice you'll be able to channel this new strength into your golf practice.
Portals to Flow- How Do You Get There?
- Focus. Any activity that requires lots of focus (like golf), will increase the chance of getting into a flow state. This can mean athletic, professional or artistic.
- Risk. The brain releases dopamine when we are at risk and out of our comfort zones
- Rich Environment: Lots of novelty, complexity, beautiful scenery, lots of people, lights, contrast etc.
OK Kris so what you're writing is if I focus or try harder I will perform better? Well yes and no. When you focus with your mind and body you will. If you're just in your head (PFC pre-frontal cortex) you'll never get into the zone or flow from that disconnected stat
I have to admit much of my fascination with studying the mental game stems from my own struggles under pressure. So I've been on a quest to find answers and be more effective under pressure in golf and life. All too often you and I get too much into heads when we golf. But now neuro-scientists are breaking down how our brains work so we can use it more effectively in all aspects of of life.
Scientists like Steven Kotler who wrote the book The Rise of Superman which is about tricks and hacks to help you work and play more in the Flow state. If you Google "how to be in flow" you'll find many interesting articles and resources related to this subject.
While I'm a golf coach and I still play at a high level at certain times I get overwhelmed by some pressure situations where my performance plummets from anxiety from a fear of failing. I hate choking over a putt but at the same time now I see a golf shot as my opportunity to put these practices to work. A true stress test!
You can practice being connected to your body verses being disconnected to your body by feeling or paying attention to one of your senses. Here's a helpful acronym BAT (attention to breathing, auditory and taste) to remember:
Breathe or smell- The easiest and most under appreciated trigger is just focusing on your breathing. When you focus on your breathing it does some amazingly cool things to connect you to your body. Find out more...
Auditory or Hearing- Just a few seconds of your attention on what you hear is a great trigger to connect to your body. Try humming a tune and notice what happens. It'll activate the parasympathetic nervous system (triggering the relaxation response in your body). Find out more..
Taste- Just another sense to engage to get you into your body for the body-mind connection. Just chewing gum helps get you out your head.
You have to be in the present to use your senses and when you do you are turning off or down what's called a dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex which is your inner critic that has a very low bar for who you are. That's essentially what happened when you made that crumbled up piece of paper. And then when you tried on the second attempt it switched back on when you "tried" or put more effort in.
An interesting experiment is to pay attention to when you are in "flow". I think almost all of us experience flow when we're driving a car at times. Another time might be when you're deeply engaged in a conversation. By just reflecting back on your day I think you'll notice moments that you were in flow. The next step would then piece together what got you there.
So circling back to golf. Watch the best players in the world in their pre-shot routine. Notice how they routinely prepare for a shot. There's a Zen to it. They are calming themselves to allow a deep sense of present. Truly black-belts of focus. The highest level players are able to get there in the most intense of scenarios and win majors.
These masters of focus in golf and other sports get there many times on their own and some others through coaching but the bottom line is their brains can now be monitored and researchers can see the brain waves have a consistent pattern in the top performers. Click here for more details
The brain waves can be observed with an EEG (or an “electroencephalograph”) – a tool that allows researchers to note brain wave patterns. Bottom line is now we know how what the formula for flow and you can train yourself to be in the highest state for golf.