Many golfers give themselves negative suggestions that prevent them from playing their besT so here are a few tips to help you out if you find yourself doing the same.
What is a negative suggestion?
A negative suggestion is when a suggestion NOT to do something results the likelihood that it will happen. An example of this is that of a parent saying to their child NOT to run only for the child to do exactly that. Typical negative suggestions that golfers give themselves are 'Don’t hit it in the water' and 'Don’t lift your head' but there are many more as I am sure that you are aware.
Why does this happen?
Our brains processes the words we hear in a certain way so if I was to say, 'Don’t think of a pink elephant' you will have to think of a pink elephant first in order for your mind to process what it means not to think of a pink elephant. The subconscious part of the mind is likely to ignore the negative aspect (e.g. no, don’t, avoid, stop, etc) so you are left thinking of a pink elephant even whilst you are reading this.
The internal dialog and negative instructions you give yourself on the course work in the same way and one of the best examples that I witnessed was of a golfer who, after hitting the ball into a small bush stood on the same tee box the next day and said 'Don’t hit it in that bush' before hitting his shot in the very same bush. The most amazing thing was that we played every day that week and on the same tee each day he said the same thing (out loud) to himself before his tee shot and managed to hit his drive in the same bush despite using different clubs from various tees and in all kinds of weather conditions.
What should I think or say to myself?
Now that you know how the mind works you can use it to speak to yourself so that good thoughts are created. Turn all your negative suggestions into positive ones for example instead of saying 'Don’t hit the water' think 'Hit the fairway' to increase your chances of making a better swing or shot. To achieve even better results, select a tiny target as the smaller the target is, the smaller your misses are.
Like the physical aspects of your play, the mental aspects require training but by thinking about the instructions you give yourself and rephrasing them slightly, you will get much better results especially in pressure situations.