Like many sports, golf requires intense focus. This is why it was only natural that we take a closer look at how meditation can not only improve your performance on the green but also on a variety of other surfaces from the hard court, to ice rinks and grass fields.
Many of the world’s greatest athletes have been quoted saying they practice some form of mental conditioning in order to up their game. The perils of losing focus – if only for a moment – can spell the difference between triumph and heartbreak.
Golf, like most sports, is a mental and physical game. What happens when you lose focus?
Distractions are everywhere in life. Within us, around us—distractions can be subtle, intense, or ruminate in the back of your mind. On the golf course, distractions seem to multiply.
Note the weather conditions: is it windy, rainy, sweltering, chilly? What about the people in your group? Are they incessantly chatty, unnecessarily angry, fidgety, slow to play? And what about that group that keeps hitting into you from behind – what’s their rush?
These are all external influences you have to negotiate in your mind while you’re playing golf. Not only can external and environmental distractions be problematic, but internal distractions can cause a severe loss of focus as well.
Imagine that you’ve arrived at the course in a certain frame of mind: perhaps a swirling mix of energized, anxious, fearful and/or unsettled. Although you can’t quite pinpoint the exact cause of your mental and emotional state, you can feel a loss of clarity in your ability to fully connect your mind and body with your game.
There are disruptions everywhere that prevent us from playing like pros. We build up expectations. Emotions come into play and over-thinking leads to underperforming. How we respond to distractions in the moment acts as a good measure of how focused we really are.
So, how can you improve your focus?
According to new research from the University of Toronto Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education and Aix-Marseille University, up to seven minutes of meditation is all it takes to see the benefit during sport.
The study began with participants having their baseline brain wave activity measured using Muse before going out on an indoor putting green. Following the first 30 putts, all participants were then given a seven-minute break.
During their break, participants were instructed to do one of three things:
- Meditate using Muse headbands (receiving real-time neurofeedback about their brain activity during meditation)
- To meditate using Muse but without the auditory neuro-feedback turned on
- To spend their break simply relaxing without a neurofeedback device
Following their break, the participants repeated the original EEG or brain activity measurement, and then returned to the putting green for another 30 putts.
What were the results?
The study was conducted by Sadiya Abdulrabba, a fourth-year kinesiology student, under the supervision of Luc Tremblay, associate professor and Vice Dean of research at KPE, Katherine Tamminen, assistant professor at KPE, and Laurence Mouchnino, a researcher at Aix-Marseille University.
“I didn’t think a seven-minute meditation was going to do anything,” says Sadiya Abdulrabba. “A lot of the research I referenced talks about eight weeks of intense meditation, so I thought what’s seven minutes of meditation going to do for someone who is not an experienced meditator or golfer?”
To Sadiya Abdulrabba’s surprise, the study showed that the participants who meditated had significantly reduced the type of brain activity associated with voluntary movement control, compared to the participants who simply relaxed.
Additionally, the participants who showed a reduction in movement-related brain waves showed putting performance improvements.
“What’s so exciting about the University of Toronto’s work is that it shows us how easy it can be to use consumer neurotechnology like Muse as a powerful research tool. Athletes of all levels use technology and mental training to improve their game, and brain research has allowed us not only to bring these two applications together but make them widely accessible.”
-Dr. Graeme Moffatt, Phd, Chief Scientist and VP Regulatory Affairs
Next time you’re thinking about ways to improve your swing, consider trying something new. Consider meditation.