How To Use Sports to Improve Your Mental Health 

By Patrick Banks

Posted 10 months agoHEALTH

It’s a fact. Playing sports and keeping your exercise levels up has a full range of positive effects on a person’s physical well-being. You’ll improve your cardiovascular health, keep your body moving and keep yourself at a healthy weight. However, the extraordinary ability that sports have to improve your mental health is often overlooked. Sports and other exercise routines can work wonders for your mental health in many ways, including lowering your stress levels, boosting your confidence, and surrounding yourself with positive choices.

Discovering Your Joy in Sports

One of the key ways to use sports to improve your mental health is finding a sport or exercise that you genuinely enjoy participating in – whether that’s football, soccer, swimming, or even running. It doesn’t matter what it is; it could even be dancing, tennis, or trying your hand at extreme sports! The focus here is that rather than feeling like you need to go out of obligation, you are actively excited and looking forward to your time to work out. Doing something you enjoy will naturally improve your outlook on the journey and your mental health, without needing too much mental energy to get you there in the first place.

The Importance of Starting Slow

As with any meaningful change, it’s best to ease into it slowly and build up to full force. Attempting to do too much, too soon, is likely to result in disappointment, injury, or exhaustion. After all, it’s hard to explain away weird injuries in sports! Start out gently, and then gradually increase your workout time, frequency, and intensity as your fitness level rises. This methodical development will improve your physical fitness but also builds on your mental fitness by practising and increasing your self-assurance and willpower.

The Power of Accountability

Participating in sports is more fun when shared with others,especially in team games! One of the most effective ways to stay consistent and committed is to find an accountability partner or join a group. Even solo sports, such as running or cycling, have groups where people work out together. Positive mental health has been linked to a variety of social factors, including the development of a feeling of community and friendship. There are groups for a range of different levels, so have a look at what is available in your area.

Setting Goals and Tracking Progress

Setting SMART aims can be useful to keep your motivation high. The SMART acronym stands for: 

– Specific,

– Measurable,

– Achievable,

– Realistic,

– and time bound.

Having something to work for, like achieving a 5k, or mastering a tricky yoga pose, may help take your mind off the pressures of everyday life while keeping you on a path of improvement. Rewarding yourself at significant milestones can increase your self-esteem and enhance your outlook on life, so give it a try.

The Reward System

Rewards are an effective way to motivate yourself and maintain a cheerful outlook about your sport, especially when you are starting to lose interest. You can use little incentives like as a new book or a dinner at your favourite restaurant. The objective is to create a positive feedback loop in which consistent exercise leads to increased happiness, and extra little treats! When you hit major milestones, you can splurge more, perhaps on some new kit or on a new sports watch, but the mini ones can have a major impact too.

Asking for Help

It’s so important that if you feel like you need help, you ask for it. Whether it’s a professional trainer or the coach of your team or club, they’re there to support you and maintain your well-being. You can ask them about how to improve your form, prevent injuries, and stay on track with your fitness goals. Not sure when to increase the weight? Ask. Not sure if you’re doing the move right? Ask! Need a little more external motivation? They can cheer you on and encourage you to keep working hard! Asking for help also helps calm your nerves when you’re feeling unsure of yourself. 

Being Mindful

There are instances when zoning out during a workout is effective. Listening to music while engaging in a repetitive physical activity, such as walking or jogging, can be a form of meditation. While your body is busy, your thoughts are free to wander. While working out is great for building strength and self-confidence, losing focus on your workout might ruin that “magical moment” when you finally feel like you’re making progress.

Concentrating on your body’s sensations when you work out is a great technique to keep yourself in the here and now. Take note of your foot’s repeated impact with the ground while you run. Pay attention to the feelings you experience in each muscle group as you work them. Avoid the temptation to judge yourself by the standards of the person working out next to you. Instead, draw your attention to the current phase of your exercise and how it makes you feel.

By integrating sports into your daily routine, setting realistic goals, and not hesitating to ask for help, you can pave your way to improved mental health. Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination, so find joy in the process and embrace the transformative power of sports on mental well-being.

About the author Patrick Banks

Patrick is a Berlin-based dating advisor, motivational speaker, a huge fitness and vegan diet enthusiast and the main editor at Wingman Magazine, specialised in men's health. His ultimate goal is to share with men around the world his passion for self-development and to help them to become the greatest version of themselves. He believes a healthy body and successful social interactions are two main keys to happiness.

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