Can the return of professional sports help your mental health?

Key points

  • Professional sports will return after months of interruption to its normal schedule.
  • Even if there are no fans in the stands, sports may provide a sense of normalcy and community that was missing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States, professional sports leagues are working hard to finalize their plans to return sometime in the late summer or early fall of this year. Although fans may not be allowed to enter the stands, the return of sports has caused a lot of discussion and excitement, especially because many of us believe that watching sports is such an important part of our lives.

Although experts know that exercise and physical activity can promote mental health, We are not familiar with the benefits of viewing them from a distance. This may make you wonder: Does the return of professional sports help improve your mental health? We asked three mental health experts to weigh the effects of ratings (even when viewed from a distance) in improving mood.

How the return of sports can help our mental health

We are living in unprecedented times in modern history. Fear, anxiety, worry and stress are increasing,Many people seem to be unable to escape the way they lived before COVID-19. Although staying safe, wearing a mask, and maintaining social distancing are top priorities, it is also important to find ways to calm down from what is happening. This is where sports come in.

For some people, being able to watch their favorite professional golfer or baseball team provides some return to normal appearance and provides a meaningful connection with the larger community. But for others, it is a way to escape (even for a short time) the isolation, anxiety, and stress of living in a pandemic.

“Following and watching college and professional sports have many psychological benefits,” said Dr. Moe Gelbart, Director of Community Psychiatry Practice Development.

Moe Gelbart, PhD

In addition to the excitement and excitement of the game, there is the ability to alternatively identify with victory, the social attachment to the “tribe” we identify with, and the understanding of outstanding performance.

— Dr. Moe Gelbart

Kensa Gunter, PsyD, CMPC is a member of the Executive Committee of the Applied Sports Psychology Association, and agrees. “For many people, the return movement may mean returning to familiar things,” she said. As the uncertainty and turmoil continue, Gunter said that re-engagement in familiar things can be a source of enjoyment, usually providing an outlet for people, and may help boost overall emotions.

Exercise can give us a sense of normalcy

In the era before COVID, sports provided a significant physical and mental improvement for spectators and athletes. But during the pandemic, we realized how important the role of sports is.

“People are looking for anything that feels and sounds like life before COVID-19,” said Souzan Swift, a psychologist at Heal and a PhD in psychology. Swift said that through sports ratings, it provides a sense of normalcy, a healthy distraction, and a way to connect with others during isolation.

For Gerbart, the return of professional sports is a sense of normalcy, a feeling of a brief escape from huge pressures such as illness, death, unemployment, anxiety, and fear of the future.

However, even at the best of times, Gailbart said that given that the audience sports meet the countless needs of the audience, from experiencing positive emotions to connecting with friends and family, to expressing deep appreciation for the greatness of sports, so even at the best At the time, they were undeniably popular.

Watching sports games can be distracting

People often see exercise as a distraction, or even a way to escape from normal life. College and professional sports also provide a sense of connection, belonging, and community. Swift said that when we can focus on the game and the players, watching sports can free us from the pressure and negative emotions around us. “If even for a few hours, our anxiety and depression are no longer our primary considerations,” she said.

Sports provide us with a way to communicate with people

Gunter said that she often thinks that sports is both a universal language and a metaphor for life, so it has the power to connect us.

Kensa Gunter, PhD in Psychology, CMPC

In this shared experience, people may collectively identify with or revolve around competition, teamwork, witnessing human spirit will, controlling emotions, meeting challenges, and facing difficulties—all these are the elements of our daily lives.

— Kensa Gunter, PhD in Psychology, CMPC

In addition, when we generally have a strong connection with the players and the team, Swift said that we feel that we are part of the team and that connecting with others is important to our overall well-being.

Sports provide us with a sense of community

Whether watching or participating, sports give us a sense of community. “When you go out in a local city, wear the local city’s sweatshirt, T-shirt, and hat, and other fans will notice and recognize you,” Swift said. It may be slight, but Swift says it makes you feel good. “Even the smallest nod, smile or comment can make us feel like we are immediately part of the community. It provides us with common ground and makes us feel less isolated,” she explained.

What are the risks to athletes?

Considering the health and safety of athletes should be at the core of any discussion about returning to sporting events, as should the health and safety of those who help organize sporting events. Although we are eager for the return of sports, Gunter said that most of us are not in a hurry to see anyone put ourselves in danger. “I think what people desire is different from the constant uncertainty, loss, change and feeling facing the unknown as defined for most of this year,” she said.

Among all the challenges we face and continue to face, Gunter said that a safe return to sport may provide “something different”, bringing hope, relief, or just a way out, because we will continue to work together to find our destination and move forward. path of.

Like most things in life, especially during a pandemic, Gerbart said, all options are in a risk/reward continuum. “As a society, we have to ask ourselves whether the risk is worth the benefit,” he said.

On the positive side, Gelbart said that professional and university courses seem to be trying to adopt the maximum degree of protection. However, the sport itself requires exposure and exposure, and to make matters worse, any degree of audience participation is still a considerable risk.“This is a difficult choice, and everyone will be different,” he added.

What this means to you

COVID-19 presents us with a unique challenge to develop new ways to maintain our physical and mental health. Since many common preferred strategies are not available, we need to dig deeper and find other ways to combat stress, relieve anxiety, and feel connected during this period of social distancing.

Although spectator sports may look very different over a period of time, the idea that we can observe (from a distance) the teams and athletes we like to cheer can provide hope in situations of uncertainty.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may receive updated information while reading this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, please visit our Coronavirus News page.