By Dr. Josh Brant – First Published by The Golf Performance Center

During the competitive months here in the Northeast, it’s difficult to meaningfully incorporate new learning into your game, however, as we head indoors for the winter, it is a perfect time to develop new skills in preparation for the upcoming year when they will serve you better. With regard to developing your mind, there are five core mental skills that everyone can work on during the off-season that, I believe, are the foundation of a rock solid mental game: goal setting, breath control, positive self-talk, visualization, and target focus.

Goal Setting is a process that involves establishing specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals and working towards achieving them. The benefits of goal setting include increased motivation, direction, better decision making, and overall confidence. More importantly, goal setting, if done correctly, creates an easy to follow step-by-step plan to improve. Here’s how to do it!

Breath Control refers to the ability to regulate and control one’s breathing with the intention of reducing the stress and anxiety associated with performance, improving focus and concentration, and enhancing cognitive functioning. Breath control as a form of self-regulation is a critical component of optimal performance. Here’s how to work on it!

Positive Self-Talk is the practice of talking to oneself in a positive and supportive way. It is a way to boost confidence, reduce stress, and improve performance, overall mental health and interpersonal relationships. Some examples of positive self-talk in sports might include phrases like “I can do this,” “I am strong and capable,” or “I have trained hard and I am ready for this challenge.” Using positive self-talk can help athletes stay focused and motivated, and can help them overcome negative thoughts or doubts that might otherwise hold them back. Here’s how to work on it!

Visualization is a mental technique that involves creating a mental image or scenario in your mind. In sports, it is often used as a way to improve performance and overcome challenges. Visualization has been shown to help athletes focus on the task at hand and block out distractions, better understand the movements and techniques required to perform a skill or task through mental rehearsal, feel more prepared, and anticipate and plan for adversity. Here’s how to work on it!

Target Focus is an important aspect of golf because it helps you to better control, or “focus”,  your thoughts, emotions, and actions on the things that matter the most, while ignoring those things that interfere with performance. Improved target focus leads to greater consistency, better decision making, increased mental toughness, and better performance. Here’s how to work on it!

Remember, the off-season is a perfect time to strengthen your mental game. Focusing on skills such as goal setting, breath control, positive self-talk, visualization, and target can help increase motivation, reduce stress, improve performance, and your overall mental health. Importantly, practicing these techniques will also help you to create a step-by-step plan for improvement so you can stay focused and motivated to achieve your goals.