The Easy Kind of Therapy: Golf and Mental Health

golf and mental health

Golf is one of the oldest games in the history of the world. Although the exact origins are hard to pin down, most agree that its roots stretch all the way back to Europe in the middle ages. With the advancement of modern technology and the global popularization of golf, much about the game has changed. What remains unchanged, however, is something that lies at the heart of the appeal of golf: it is a great way to relieve stress and get some free therapy.

golf and mental health

Mark Twain once referred to golf as “a good walk spoiled.” You may or may not feel the need to argue with Mr. Twain about the “spoiled” part but what can’t be debated is that golf is certainly a good walk. Most 18-hole courses measure somewhere in the neighborhood of 7000 yards, which means that playing a round will require some good old fashioned leg work. Modern research makes it very clear that walking provides a number of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving mood.

In addition to providing the chance to get some good walking in, golf also affords the opportunity for a lot of thinking time. Part of golf’s tradition is a very strict decorum that makes it one of the quieter games around. With all that walking and all that quiet you’re bound to do some thinking. Pondering is another activity that modern research confirms is good for your mental health.  In addition to a long list of physiological benefits, the Mayo clinic lists over 60 psychological and spiritual benefits related to pondering. Here’s just a small sampling: pondering can help build self-confidence, resolve phobias & fears, help you to control your own thoughts, increase feelings of vitality and rejuvenation, increase emotional stability, decrease the potential of mental illness, lead to greater tolerance, help keep things in perspective, and provide peace of mind and happiness. Not bad.

If that list isn’t enough to convince you of golf’s stress relieving qualities, let me give you one more. Golf is an outdoor game and typically a good weather game. It just simply doesn’t work well to play it in adverse weather conditions. Most courses won’t even allow you on the course if the weather isn’t suitable (hence the term, “rain check”). What that means is that playing a round of golf almost always affords you the chance to enjoy some good old-fashioned sunshine and fresh air. As with walking and pondering, the benefits of increased exposure to sunshine has plenty of scientific backing. The benefits of appropriate exposure to sunshine range widely but a few relate specifically to stress relief and mental wellness. Research shows that exposure to sunlight can improve mood, lessen stress and help to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder. It can also lead to sleeping better which has it’s own set of health benefits.

Many people look at golf purely as recreation and entertainment. Although it is certainly that, it clearly holds a plethora of additional benefits as well. The next time you’re feeling like you need to relax, you might want to consider heading for the country club!

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