What if you could take a pill that would make you rich and powerful? The movie, Limitless (2011), starring Bradley Cooper, takes on that very question. The main character, Eddie Morra, played by Cooper, is down on his luck and stumbles upon an experimental drug that allows him to unlock the full potential of his mind, and in the end, he does in fact, become rich and powerful. Of course no such drug exists. However, what if there were a drug that could dramatically enhance your mental game? Would you take it? More importantly, what would it do? From my perspective, as a psychologist and performance coach, I would want the drug to reduce stress and anxiety, increase self-awareness, improve emotional regulation, enhance cognitive function, boost creativity, decrease impulsivity, and reduce negative emotions. Now what if I told you such a drug existed, and it’s legal, doesn’t cost a dime, there’s an endless supply of it, and you don’t need to look like Bradley Cooper to get it! What’s the drug you ask? Meditation.
Meditation is a practice that has been around for thousands of years and has been shown to have many benefits for the mind and body. Here are some of the benefits of meditation that I believe correlate directly with improved performance in golf:
Increased self-awareness: In my experience, self-awareness is the key to any improvement in life let alone in golf. Studies have shown that regular meditation can help individuals become more aware of their bodily sensations, which can increase overall self-awareness. Meditation can also help individuals become more aware of their emotions and the underlying thoughts and beliefs that contribute to those emotions. Meditation can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and the patterns of thinking that may be contributing to stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions. Meditation can also help individuals increase their focus and attention, which can facilitate self-awareness by allowing them to better tune in to their thoughts and emotions.
Improved attention and focus: One of the most well-documented cognitive benefits of meditation is improved attention and focus. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience found that participants who practiced meditation for just 20 minutes a day for four days showed significant improvements in their ability to sustain attention and maintain focus compared to a control group who did not meditate. Other studies have shown that regular meditation practice can lead to improvements in working memory and cognitive flexibility, two key cognitive skills that are critical for success in golf.
Increased creativity: Meditation has also been shown to increase creativity, which can have a significant impact on problem-solving and innovation. A study published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition found that participants who meditated for just 10 minutes showed improvements in creative thinking compared to a control group who did not meditate. Another study found that mindfulness meditation specifically can lead to increases in divergent thinking, a type of thinking that generates multiple solutions to a problem.
Improved decision making: Making decisions can be challenging, especially when we are faced with complex or high-pressure situations. However, meditation has been shown to improve decision-making skills by reducing the impact of emotional and cognitive biases. A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that participants who meditated for eight weeks showed a reduced response to the sunk cost bias, a cognitive bias that can lead to poor decision-making in business and personal contexts.
Reduction in stress and anxiety: Anxiety and stress can have a significant impact on cognitive function, leading to decreased attention, impaired memory, and reduced creativity. However, research has shown that regular meditation practice can reduce anxiety and stress levels, leading to improved cognitive function. A study published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for eight weeks showed significant reductions in anxiety and stress levels compared to a control group.
Decreased impulsivity: Research has shown that regular meditation practice can reduce impulsivity by increasing self-awareness, attention control, and emotional regulation. Meditation can help individuals become more aware of their thoughts and feelings, which can enable them to respond more effectively to challenging situations. This increased self-awareness can also help individuals identify and manage their triggers for impulsive behavior.
Improved emotional regulation: Meditation can also help individuals develop emotional regulation skills, allowing them to better manage their negative emotions. Meditation practices such as loving-kindness meditation have been found to increase positive emotions, which can counterbalance negative emotions. Along the same lines, meditation has been found to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. High levels of cortisol can contribute to negative emotions such as anxiety and depression. By reducing cortisol levels, meditation can help individuals feel more calm and relaxed. Studies have also shown that regular meditation practice can lead to changes in the brain that are associated with increased emotional regulation and decreased reactivity to negative emotions.
Meditation is a powerful practice that has been shown to have a multitude of benefits for both the mind and body. In conclusion, meditation has many cognitive benefits that can improve attention, creativity, decision-making, and cognitive function. Whether you are looking to improve your performance on the golf course, or simply want to improve your cognitive abilities and overall well-being, regular meditation practice can be an effective tool for achieving these goals.