Study shows complaining about golf could be shrinking your brain

May 7, 2019

Golf is fun. You get to be outside. You get to test yourself. You get to try things in a beautiful setting in the company of your friends. But for every thrill of a holed birdie putt or crushed drive is the pain of a sliced shot out of bounds or yipped bogey putt. Because as all golfers know, while golf is fun most of the time, sometimes this game we all love is really, really annoying. That’s when a strong mental game comes into play.

But if you’re thinking about complaining because of it, think again.

That’s according to CNBC’s Make It blog, which unearthed a 1992 Stamford study that shows the detrimental affects complaining:

Complaining, or even being complained to, for 30 minutes or more can physically damage the brain.

Researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and found “links between long-term stressful life experiences, long-term exposure to hormones produced during stress, and shrinking of the hippocampus,” the study’s authors wrote. (The hippocampus is the region of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and is also associated with learning and emotions.)

The study doesn’t mention golf specifically, of course, because it’s focused more on the affects of complaining itself rather than where the complaining takes place. But think of all those rounds we have where nothing goes right. Bad luck, bad weather, shanks, tops, thins, whiffs, yips. Let’s assume you complain twice a hole — you’re already up to 36 complaints on the day, six above the high-end of the 15 to 30 complaints-per-day average, according to the piece. And you haven’t even dealt with all that annoying traffic home or taking out the garbage. Suddenly, this game we play for fun is fast-becoming the cause of your brain shrinkage.

Time to get to work on your golf mental game.

Improve your Golf Mental Game

The moral of the story? Limit your complaining. As our resident mental expert Dr. Bhrett McCabe says, when you’re playing with someone who’s increasingly angry or you’re the angry one yourself, get zen.

Focus on your breathing: “Recenter” your breathing. Take a moment, close your eyes, and focus on nothing other than breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let the thoughts pass through without engaging them.

Embrace the challenge: It won’t be easy, but once you’ve re-centered, try re-framing your goals not by focusing on your previous expectations, but instead squarely on the challenge ahead of you. Forget what your goals were at the start of the day; your only task now is to overcome the challenge in front of you.