How to get out of your head

One of the most challenging things about becoming a better golfer is conquering our biggest enemy. It’s not the golf course, the elements, competitors, or anything like that. It’s ourselves, and many times our golf swing thoughts.

There are so many reasons why golf is an endlessly difficult game, and one in particular that separates it from any other sport is the fact that it is a stationary game. We’re not reacting to a defender, a fastball, or a pass thrown our way. We have all the time in the world to think about what we’re about to do.

That is the problem. We have too much time to think.

Our minds are often the biggest deterrent from success on the golf course. It could be because we’re scared about hitting it in a water hazard or trying not to embarrass ourselves in front of playing partners, but mostly golf swing thoughts seem to clutter our brains.

It’s Too Much

To me one of the most detrimental thoughts golfers can have is about the swing itself. Golfers will have a checklist of golf swing thoughts that they go through before, and during their actual swing.

In my golfing career I’ve had as many as 5-6 different golf swing thoughts going through my head, and I’m sure anyone reading this has experienced something similar to that.

Or you could be like this guy…

Here’s the thing. You simply can’t handle all of these thoughts and make a successful golf swing, it just doesn’t work like that.

A few weeks ago I was on the course with a good friend of mine who is an excellent golfer. He’s got one of those swings that you look at and think to yourself, “what could possibly go wrong?”

He was struggling mightily though in the beginning of the round. His swing seemed completely lost, and I asked him what was going on.

My friend said that he recently had his swing evaluated by someone he respects, and he gave him a checklist of things to work on.

It was quite a list.

He was trying to think about rotating the clubface open, and about 3-4 other technical checkpoints. It clearly wasn’t working. His mind was cluttered with these golf swing thoughts, and you could tell it was preventing him from making a confident movement.

I knew I was going to be writing this article so for a few holes I discussed why I thought there was no way a golfer of any level could be successful with their head filled with too many golf swing thoughts.

He decided to go back to his normal focus of just rotating his body, which is a simple concept to focus on.

Low and behold he went on to striking the ball like he normally does, extremely well.

It’s Not a Coincidence

A great instructor that I highly respect named Adam Young has done a lot of research in this area. He describes it as the locus of attention, and we discussed it at length in this interview available to our Insider members.

A lot of the research that Adam has looked into has shown that internal thoughts, or ones that are linked to the motion themselves, typically don’t help golfers perform under pressure.

They can be debilitating and prevent your body from making the natural motion that it subconsciously knows how to do.

Through my own personal journey as a golfer I believe this wholeheartedly to be true. I’ve always played my best golf when I let things happen, rather than trying to make them happen.

Let’s explore that concept a little bit more…

Playing Like a Cop is Following You

Dave Stockton made a great metaphor in his book Unconscious Putting that I have never forgotten, as it relates to putting.

When you drive a car you aren’t thinking about all of the mechanical things necessary to safely get your vehicle from point A to point B. You aren’t thinking about how hard to pump the brakes, or how many degrees to rotate the wheel to make a left turn.

Your subconscious mind takes over and handles all of that for you because you have already learned how to drive.

Think about what happens when you see a police officer in your rear view mirror. All of a sudden you’re watching the speedometer, your hands might get a little stiff on the wheel, and you are consciously thinking about what you need to do in order to avoid a ticket rather than just drive normally.

Dave Stockton found that many golfers putt like a police car is following them. They are thinking way too much about the mechanics of their putting stroke rather than just letting it happen.

I feel this isn’t just limited to putting, but the golf swing overall. Golfers have a tendency to obsess about the mechanics of the golf swing, and it prevents them from letting their bodies make a natural movement.

Make the List Smaller, or Focus on Something Else

I am hitting the ball better than I ever have by really not thinking about much while I swing.

A lot of this has come about by working on my tempo with a training aid like the Orange Whip. A tool like this gets you to focus on something other than the mechanical mess of thoughts that most golfers let their minds be overtaken by.

Now when I swing I am focusing one concept only, like making a smooth rhythmic movement.

That’s much easier to manage than what I used to think about, which was a list of the following:

  • Take the club back on an inside path
  • Make sure the face is open
  • Try to limit the length of backswing
  • Don’t hit it there!

There’s also ample evidence that focusing on something unrelated to the golf swing at all can help your subconscious mind take over. It could be something like humming your favorite song under your breath during your pre-shot routine and during your swing.

Or it could be trying to brush a blade of grass in front of the golf ball with your wedge when you are facing a testy pitch shot around the green.

Changing Golf Swing Thoughts Isn’t Easy

I don’t want to make it sound like all of this is easy, but based on my own experience, and a lot of the research that has been done in this area, it does make sense for golfers to start experimenting with shifting their focus away from having too many thoughts about the golf swing itself.

Adam Young and I discuss this topic a bit more in length in this interview that is available for our Insider members if you want to learn more on this topic.

Want to Get Exclusive Discounts on Some of the Top Golf Products?

Check out our deals for Practical Golf readers!

About the Author

Jon Sherman is the owner of Practical Golf, a website dedicated to being an honest resource for the everyday golfer who is looking to enjoy the game more, as well as improve. He is the author of the bestselling book 101 Mistakes All Golfers Make (and how to fix them). You can find him on Twitter here – @practicalgolf, where he is happy to chat about golf with anyone.

Cheesy as this is, I had a dream about being in a happy and healthy relationship. It was amazing, but I've spent all morning in my head just thinking and as a very social introvert, I'm usually less social in this state which is a problem because I will be in a conference today ;P

Tried meditating and for some reason I am not able to reach my mindful state. How do you get out of your head or stop the flow of thoughts?

This x100. When I was going through a rough period of time. I trained like a motherfucker. It helps. Run in the morning, lift in the afternoon and give yourself the confidence you deserve. The very action of being able to follow through with a checklist you put together builds and boosts your value broski.

The thing with meditating is it's not about "stopping" the flow, it's about acknowledging the thought, and then bringing your attention back to your breathing. Your attention on your breaths might then only last about 10 seconds until another thought pops up, so you have to keep repeating this process. Meditation is a skill, it takes some practice to reach a mindful state for an extended period, but it's worth it!

(Also another interesting fact, regularly meditating can increase your self-discipline in other facets of life such as in diet and exercise because it strengthens the part of the brain associated with stopping impulses. Interesting huh?)

Your mind is the reflection of the moon on a river and the river is you thoughts, the thoughts pass through you.

Oops I actually just read the post itself haha! So my altered advice would be to write about your dream, and the emotions it has brought up within you and why? Perhaps coming to some resolution with it will "evolve" the thought into something that you don't cling to as much if that makes sense?

read the book "the power of now" by echart tolle, it will help you

Stare at the wall until all the shit in your head comes to the surface, let it happen, and then after a few hours you're blank. No distractions/phone/noises while doing this.

Meditation is not for everyone, but this works for me.

To illustrate an extreme point – one time I took shrooms and created a sound in my head that was like background static to every thought, and it accidentally nested itself into happening ALL THE TIME. EVERY. SINGLE. THOUGHT. had this damn static sound attached to it.

Fucking sucked. Flash forward, I end up walking around like Dr.Seuss animals doing crazy-whirly-legs walk. I discovered that moving my body would take my awareness out of my thinking , which wasn't enough , because it had to take conscious effort to focus on making my legs walk around funnily (dancing basically).

So yeah, try going for a walk, use music to distract yourself, focus on whats around on, and focus on moving your body parts – these will keep you focused on NOT THINKING . Meditation is more for clearing your thoughts, but when your head is full, it can take hours to clear out, so substitute a LONGGG walk (try a 2 hour walk like hiking) for meditating.

How to get out of your head

Have you ever stopped to think about what someone has done or said that has left you wondering why?

When someone hurts us — hurts our children, parents, or loved ones; talks about us behind our back; or just acts really crazy — they can end up occupying our thoughts for hours, days, or even months.

We can’t stop thinking about their behavior, and we constantly remember how they looked and what they said. This happens a lot, for example, with couples who end their relationship abruptly.

Toxic thoughts

This results in a cycle of toxic thoughts. And most of us know that this way of thinking is damaging, both emotionally and physically. In fact, studies demonstrate that a mind full of toxic thoughts is an unhappy and unhealthy mind.

When we recall memories of fighting, resentment, or loss, we tend to suffer from stress, which can have physical and psychological repercussions. Research even suggests that thinking toxic thoughts plays a fundamental role in illnesses like depression, cancer, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases.

How can we get rid of toxic thoughts and negativity?

We work very hard to get rid of the toxic things in our lives, whether it’s buying organic products, restricting our diets, throwing away household chemicals, eating green, cleaning green, using organic cosmetics, etc. But we put very little effort into thinking green.

What is the greenest solution for toxic thought?

How can we stop thinking about negative people? How can we forget their attitudes or behaviors that let us down? Why do these unpleasant memories keep coming back to us?

These ten small but powerful ideas will help you to banish negative people from your mind, eliminating the toxic cycle that keeps happening. Try out any of these ways of thinking or acting, and you’ll be able to free yourself from that person once and for all:

1. Talk about them less and let time pass. Not bringing them up so much, along with letting time pass and act like an eraser, will get them out of your head.

2. Wait and see what happens next. We often feel the need to respond and react to difficult people or situations right away. Instead, just give yourself permission to wait and see what happens next.

3. Free yourself from blame. Thinking about past events and blaming yourself is rarely productive. Disagreements and misunderstandings just happen sometimes through a series of events, like a domino effect. In general, nobody is responsible for all of the blame.

4. Try not to let the other person think about you so much. Although really, you can’t completely control what other people think about; it’s impossible.

5. Take care of your own issues first. It doesn’t matter what happened, the biggest problem you’re faced with is your own anger. Anger creates a burst of emotions that keeps us from responding in a satisfying and productive manner.

In that sense, anger is really your biggest problem. Take care of yourself – meditate, exercise, take a long walk, whatever is necessary – before you confront the other person.

6. When you’re angry, your mind crumbles. You can’t think clearly, creatively, or thoughtfully, about the best way to manage the situation when you’re angry. If you want to think clearly, you can’t be angry about anything. Be calm.

7. Don’t believe what you think. When worry, sorrow, fear, anxiety, or anger take over, our emotional and physical state makes us think our irrational thoughts are very real, even though they might not be. In this case, we could make a poor judgement, so we must be careful.

8. You can’t control time. When we think about past events that have hurt us, sometimes we look for what we could have done differently to avoid a disagreement or unfortunate result.

What happened yesterday is as much in the past as something that happened more than a thousand years ago. We can’t change what happened during the Mayan period, and we can’t change what happened last week.

9. It’s not necessary to be faithful to our suffering; we can forgive. We tend to be very loyal to our suffering. To free ourselves from it, forgiveness is best. Forgiveness is not only something we do for the other person, we do it for ourselves, too.

10. Occupy a different mental space. Meditation, accompanied by powerful images, can help us to stop thinking in a toxic way. For example, imagine the deep blue ocean, calming your mind, leaving no room for toxic thought.