As I prepare for my golf club's Club Championship, I thought I would share some general techniques that I plan to use, that you can use in your own life. Believe it or not, these have nothing to do with golf techniques, and everything to do with preparing your mind. So even if you're not preparing for competition, you can still apply them, when preparing for a meeting, an interview, or a difficult conversation. For physicians, imagine going into the Operating Room, or the Intensive Care Unit, or the Emergency Department, preparing in this way.
The Power Pose
I am reading Presence, by Amy Cuddy, and I am fascinated by the research by her and others about how a "power pose" can lower cortisol and increase testosterone, improve your sense of control, and most importantly improve performance. What is a "power pose?". Think feet wide apart, and arms up in a Victory pose, or feet wide apart and hands on hips, elbows out, chin up.
Open your chest and sit up straight if you're in a chair. All these body positions have an impact on your brain, even if your mind is not aware of it! Study subjects, after doing power poses, showed increased confidence and performance, even when they were tricked into these poses.
It has been proven that deep breathing, whether part of a yoga practice, or just on its own, lowers your heart rate (through its effect on the vagus nerve) and increases heart rate variability (HRV). Practices like HeartMath, which increase your HRV, have also been shown to decrease cortisol. When paired with a positive emotion like gratitude or appreciation, you may feel a sense of "active calm," which helps you think, create, and perform. The HeartMath Institute continues to study the impact of HeartMath on healthcare workers, as well as patients. In one study on hospitalized patients, those patients who were taught HeartMath used less pain medication and pushed the call button less.
You've probably noticed that your brain remembers far more negative things than positive (3- to-1,actually, in neuroplasticity studies). This can be a real problem in competition. If you focus on the past, you cannot also focus on the future, and really what matters more? In golf, you need to move on, focus on the next shot you have, and not be berating yourself for a shot that didn't give you the result you wanted. So how do you do that? In Positive Intelligence- speak, you do PQ reps. These are little practices that get your brain to focus on a specific sensation- it could be your sense of touch (rubbing two fingers together to feel the ridges), listening to sounds around you, or your own breathing, or really seeing all the detail in something you're looking at. This gets you out of your negative, analytical "Judge-y" brain, and into your "Sage" brain, where the creativity and positivity happens.
It continues to amaze me that you can control your body with your mind, and your mind with your body. In all kinds of performance, your mental preparation is at least as important as your physical preparation. Think of it as "Mental Fitness."
If you would like to learn more about HeartMath or Positive Intelligence, please contact me for a free call.