Mental Health Lessons From Golf
Most people choose their study abroad experience based on the quality of the cultural experience or foreign language development. However, my decision on where to study abroad came down to pursuing one of my favorite passions: golf.
In the midst of my time living in a foreign country (Scotland) for the first time, I started to feel symptoms of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Initially, I refused to seek out any professional medical attention, and, rather, escaped to the golf course to cope with my mental health. Thankfully, I eventually obtained the proper medical care, but I will always continue to use golf as a means of improving my mental health.
If you’ve ever taken a swing with a golf club, you know it looks way easier than it actually is. A quarter of an inch can be the difference between launching your ball 200 yards straight down the fairway, or slicing it 50 yards to the right into the forest. A similar analogy can be made to life.
It’s easy to compare our success to others, as others often “make it look so easy.” Every golfer, including the top pros, makes mistakes, and has moments where they find themselves looking for their ball after slamming it off a tree. However, the best golfers are able to forgive themselves after these errors, move on, and focus on their next position. Taking this same strategy to life can help process our shortcomings and insecurities.
Focusing on the shot at hand is the key to a top golfer. A golfer cannot stress on his previous mistake, or worry about the tough, long par 5 that lay ahead. Remaining in the moment, and focusing on the present is how great golfers achieve success.
Golf was my first true lesson of mindfulness meditation. By focusing on staying in the moment, I noticed my golf game improve with time. I applied this similar attitude to my life away from golf. I found that I could handle stress and the demands of my life much more easily by remaining in the moment.
The beauty of golf is that even the average Joe can once in a while hit a shot just like the pros. Even a below-average golfer has a shot at miraculously hitting a hole in one. Quite frankly, I am a pretty terrible golfer, but I can’t get enough of it.
When I finally achieve one of those perfect powerful drive right down the middle of the fairway, or sink a 15 foot, long, curving putt, I celebrate! I get excited! I let my emotion out. I act just like the professionals I watch on television almost every Sunday.
I like to apply this philosophy to my personal and professional life as well. I know I will never be perfect, but I want to celebrate and honor when I achieve something great. It helps me with my self-esteem and self-motivation to be able to enjoy my achievements.
Osteopathic Medical Student - 2nd Year (OMS II)
Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences