Sports Have a Positive Impact on Your Mental Health
Sports have become an integral part of Americans’ lives, from their days as youths engaging in team sports to becoming dedicated professional sports fans. As you progress through school, playing sports has become a coming of age moment for many. Many parents often played sports in their youth and encourage their young ones to play, as well.
The physical health benefits for playing sports and exercising are well documented, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Building strong bones and muscles
- Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol
- Reducing the risk of heart disease
- And much more
While many of us are quite aware of the obvious physical benefits organized sports have on your body, sports’ effects on your mental health are often overlooked or just not mentioned. However, the impact on your mental health is quite large, extending throughout your entire life.
Lifeworks Counseling Center is here to explain just how powerful participating in organized sports can be for you and your loved ones.
Provides Social Connections
One of the greatest things that sports offer you is the chance to interact with other people. Humans are inherently social beings. We strive to make social connections with one another. Loneliness can be detrimental to your mental health. Even those who do not have very many friends or connections can quickly get close to others when they engage in sports.
When you first join a team, you may be surprised how quickly you become friends with your teammates. There is a bond and connection that can’t be found elsewhere.
Not only do you learn excellent social skills, but you also learn how to operate in a team environment. Young children who play sports as they grow up learn teamwork skills that they take with them throughout their life, applying them to their personal and professional lives. Studies conducted on high school athletes found that there was a correlation between playing sports and certain leadership traits. Sports require a team mindset. This team mindset helps develop and strengthen your leadership qualities over time.
In this team environment, you win and lose with your team. You train and work hard with them. A strong support system is built that allows you to cope with setbacks and failures in a healthier way.
When you engage in any physical activity, your body releases brain chemicals that naturally make you feel happy and relaxed, often known as endorphins. Once these endorphins are released, a sense of euphoria and happiness washes over you. Exercise is not the only way to release them, but it tends to release more than usual, leaving you with a mood boost and feeling more energized.
Your body also boosts the level of serotonin found in your body. This chemical has many uses, including regulating your mood, sex drive, and social behavior. Many cases of depression are linked to unbalanced levels of serotonin, so participating in sports can help your body even them out.
Reduces Stress and Depression
Unfortunately, more and more people throughout the world are experiencing symptoms of depression than ever before. Several things in life can increase your levels of stress and depression. However, many therapists and counselors often tell their patients about the mental health benefits of exercising and playing sports.
Staying active keeps your mind busy, distracting you from your daily stressors. As we have already mentioned, playing sports boosts the levels of serotonin and endorphins in your body, which help regulate your mood and keep your depression at bay. Being active also helps with destressing you.
When you’re active, your body increases the concentration of norepinephrine in your brain. This chemical is your brain’s natural stress response. It reverses any damage stress has on your brain, helps you stay focused on the task at hand, and boosts your mood.
Sports are far more complex than regular exercise, requiring much more focus. There are rules to follow and strategic ways to get a victory. They require fast thinking in order to get the outcome you desire. This quick thinking and problem solving also help you train your mind to navigate the issues and stress you encounter in your daily life.
Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence
As we have mentioned, playing sports boasts a host of physical benefits. From maintaining a healthy weight to improving your stamina, you will be much healthier from participating in a sport. This weight loss and improvement in physical achievement has a way of increasing your self-esteem and confidence.
Along with this, the more you play a sport, the better you will be at it. You improve your skills, game planning, strength, and teamwork. The better you perform, the more confidence you will have. Even though you are competing, you are practicing how to succeed and how to handle failure. Losing is a part of any sport and life. How to react to failure is critical.
Participating in sports provides you with first-hand experience with failure. Often, failure can have a drastic impact on your confidence. However, sports allow you to learn from your mistakes to improve in the future to succeed. This is an important aspect to take with you into life.
We have gone on and on about how important sleep is for your mental health. When you get the appropriate amount of sleep, you sharpen your brain, reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, and much more. Far too many people do not receive adequate sleep every night.
Participating in sports helps tire your mind and body, enabling you to improve the quality of your sleep. You are more likely to fall asleep much faster and have a much deeper sleep, as well. Your mind needs rest just as much as your body does. Giving it proper rest every night allows it to prepare itself for the coming day.
Risks of Sports
When it comes to playing sports, injuries are common. Contact sports, such as football and hockey, often results in many injuries. While most of these end in a full recovery after receiving proper medical attention, some injuries can be long-lasting.
Brain trauma and concussions can lead to permanent, lifelong damage to an athlete. Thankfully, the danger of concussions has received much more attention in the past decade, helping parents and athletes better protect themselves. The CDC has provided guidelines discussing the proper way to avoid and recover from sports-related concussions.
Sports give you plenty of lifelong mental health benefits, but if you don’t protect yourself from repeated head trauma, those benefits will be completely reversed.
Sports are one of the best ways to maintain your mental health. From developing and improving social skills to reducing symptoms of depression, athletes experience many benefits from competing in sports. If you protect your body and head from any injuries, you set your mental health up for a healthy life. If you do experience mental health issues regardless of your circumstances, contact Lifeworks Counseling Center to seek treatment.