Sports are often thought of as nothing more than a form of entertainment. While this is certainly true, playing sports can have some very real psychological benefits that will last long after the game has ended.
The mental health benefits of playing sports
These benefits include things like stress relief, improved mood, socialization with teammates, and an overall feeling of accomplishment by overcoming personal obstacles. One important benefit that is unique to athletes is what psychologists call ” flow “, or being so deeply involved in one’s work that they lose their sense of time passing them by, bringing about complete immersion into what they are doing.
That being said, here are six ways playing sports can improve your mental health:
1) Stress Relief
Playing a sport can be an extremely relaxing way to spend your time. The nature of the game itself involves repetitive actions, which means you will have plenty of opportunities to clear your mind and focus on yourself. In addition, research has shown that exercising in nature is the most effective way to reduce stress, so going out for a jog or throwing a football around in your backyard could serve as a great outlet for tension. As it turns out, watching sports provides many of these same benefits too.
2) Improved Mood
Having a fantastic time playing a sport with friends will naturally lead to positive feelings. And when this occurs during sunny weather, it is only natural that we feel even better! A study by the University of Essex found that just 20 minutes of playing in the sun was able to boost participants’ moods for up to 12 hours afterwards. This is likely due to the increased production of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that is known to improve mood and feelings of well-being.
Playing sports allows you to connect with others on a deeper level. When you are working together as a team towards a common goal, communication and trust are essential. As you grow closer to your teammates, the bond between you will strengthen, providing an invaluable support system both on and off the field.
Additionally, athletes often become role models for younger children who look up to them as examples of what is possible. This provides an opportunity for athletes to provide children with important life lessons, such as how to deal with defeat or the importance of staying active and eating right.
Supporters also benefit from socialization with athletes, especially during games or other large events. Fans visit sites like bet365, they arrange for friends to come over and ‘watch the game’. After all, what better way to spend some time than watching the game alongside thousands of your fellow fans?
4) Improved Focus
Athletes must learn how to stay on task while wrestling an opponent in the dirt, running laps at a track meet, or trying to hit home run after home run in batting practice. This skill can be invaluable when it comes to tackling academic assignments and day-to-day tasks outside of sports. Training yourself to focus on what really matters is an invaluable life lesson that will help you get through just about anything.
A large part of sports is working towards overcoming personal obstacles. Whether it’s learning how to hit a curveball or getting up at 5 AM every day for practice, being successful at something builds confidence due to the simple fact that you have done what others could not. This often carries over into other areas of life, allowing people to take on new challenges with more vigour than before they picked up a ball.
6) Flow State
Perhaps one of the unique mental health benefits that can be obtained from playing sports is the phenomenon known as “flow state“. This occurs when someone is so deeply absorbed in what they are doing that they lose all sense of time or self-consciousness. It is a feeling of complete immersion into the task at hand, leading to a state of pure happiness and focus. Athletes often achieve this state when they are in the zone, doing things that come naturally to them and require little conscious thought. The feeling is addictive, as it provides an intense sense of satisfaction that can be hard to replicate elsewhere.
Low-intensity sports have the benefit of being both mentally and physically relaxing. These can be sports such as badminton, where you are constantly moving but not exerting yourself to a large degree. In addition to this, playing these kinds of games exposes you to sunlight during the day, just as discussed above with regards to its stress relief benefits.
High-intensity sports, on the other hand, require a great deal of strategic thinking and concentration, making them effective for improving focus and concentration skills. When playing a high-intensity sport, it is necessary that your mind remains focused on strategy rather than worry about what others might be thinking of your performance. Due to this increased amount of mental activity, athletes often find that their thinking skills improve overall.
Lastly, low-impact sports are perfect for those who are recovering from an injury or are dealing with a mental health condition that precludes them from participating in high-intensity activities. Swimming is a great example of a low-impact sport, as it provides all the benefits of exercise while being gentle on the body. Yoga is another activity that has been shown to be beneficial for mental health, as it helps to calm the mind and focus on the present moment.
While all of these benefits are important, it is important to note that not every sport will provide them. In order for sports to have a positive impact on your mental health, you need to find one that you enjoy and feel passionate about. This could be anything from tennis to Ultimate Frisbee, as long as you are putting your all into it. So go out there and find the sport that calls to you, and get ready to reap the rewards!
Thank you for reading. I hope this post has helped you find inspiration and motivation to get moving and exercising if it benefits your mental health and well-being.