3 Ways Playing Golf Can Help Relieve Stress—Way 1

by Doc Orman, M.D.

How Playing Golf Can Help Relieve Stress 1Today is June 16, 2013, which is Father’s Day.  It is also the day the final round of the U.S. Open Golf Championship is traditionally played. So my thoughts turned a little more to golf today than they do on most other days.

In the spirit of full transparency, I must disclose that I am an avid golfer. This means I think about golf most days, whether or not I am playing.  But I also have other passions, not the least of which is helping others learn how to reduce their stress. So this week, I am going to combine these two interests and talk about how playing golf can actually help reduce stress.

3 Ways Playing Golf Can Reduce Stress

Now even if you don’t play golf at all or even if you seriously dislike the sport, you can still get something of value from this discussion.  You see, I’m really going to be talking about three key strategies for dealing with life successfully. And it just so happens you can work on improving all three when you are playing golf.  But you can also work on them in many other ways.

Unfortunately, most people who like to play golf miss the fact that this outdoor game can be used to help them improve their stress coping skills.  Even worse, many golfers frequently feel angry, frustrated, and stressed as a result of playing golf, which is the exact opposite of what they could be doing instead.

Way 1—Letting Go Of The Past

In golf as with many other sports (and with life as well), there are many times when we screw things up.  The interesting thing about sports is that the next play, or the next shot, is right around the corner.  Thus, there’s very little time to indulge yourself in self-deprecating negative thinking.  You’ve got to move on and you’ve got to move on fast!  And this usually means leaving the past in the past and not bringing it into the next play or competitive encounter.

In normal life, however, we often have lots of time to ruminate about the past.  Even though the thing we screwed up is over and done with, we find it hard to simply leave it behind and move on.  Spiritually and psychologically, we remain somewhat stuck in the past and continue to carry it around with us wherever we go.

Not only can this be personally stressful, but it can diminish our future performance and increase our problems and stress in this way too.

Leaving The Past Where It Belongs

Once you recognize that we have a natural tendency to resist leaving the past in the past, it helps to have a few strategies or disciplines to help us work on strengthening this important stress-reducing skill. And believe it or not, one great way to do this is by taking advantage of golf in a therapeutic way.

Since even the best and most accomplished professional golfers occasionally hit very bad shots, the average golfer is going to do this much more frequently. So we have many more opportunities to practice leaving each bad shot in the past, where it rightfully belongs, while clearing our minds to immediately move on to the next shot to play.

The fact that many golfers hold on to bad shots much longer than they should just highlights the point that golf provides us with a golden opportunity to work on this skill.  And golf can be a great teacher and even a better therapist.

How much stress have you generated in your life by not being good at leaving the past in the past?  Yes, we should always learn and grow from our mistakes, but seriously ruminating about them never does anyone any good.  So if you are already playing golf, think about adding this as one of your goals, right along with lowering your handicap, improving your short game, eliminating your slice, and getting more of those elusive holes in one.

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