How Your Mood Can Affect Your Sports Performance

Despite the common belief that anger can drive athletic performance, excitement, joy and happiness are more closely correlated with success on the field.

Every good athlete knows it takes more than physical stamina to succeed. Along with developing your muscles, reflexes and physical capabilities, you need to be able to cultivate the appropriate mindset for competitions and games and learn how mood affects performance. A bad mood can throw off your whole performance, while some days you may feel like you're flying through the field with ease.

Mood has a measurable effect on your athletic performance. A negative mood, anger, frustration, stress and fear can all have a profoundly harmful effect on your ability to run, to coordinate, to concentrate your energy and to work in sync with your teammates. The effects range from the physical to the psychological.

Although most people know that over time, athletic activities can have a positive effect on your mood, effectively combatting depression and anxiety, it doesn't necessarily follow that your individual performance cannot be negatively affected by a sour mood. Although your performance may improve, frustration and anger can have immediate, noticeable effects on your speed, response, quick decision making and focus.

Negative emotions slow you down


Besides leaving you in a cloudy mood, anger and similar negative emotions have a documented effect on your physical capabilities. A negative mood can cause you to tense your muscles more than normal, which can leave you feeling exhausted and low on energy much quicker into a game than you normally would. You can also experience breathing difficulties from balancing the need for oxygen with the stress that inhibits your ability to take deep breaths.

Negative thoughts can also have a significant impact on your capabilities, especially if hitting the field doesn't serve as a helpful distraction. Although some people find athletics a good way to take their mind off their anger, negative emotions can be hard to shake, leaving you trailing behind your teammates, delaying your reactions and lowering your confidence and ability to perform. You might stumble before kicking the soccer ball, thinking you can't make the goal, whereas a confident you would have kicked without hesitation.

The more frustrated you feel, the more you may begin to experience despair and a lack of motivation on the field, even for minor of setbacks. A bad mood can alter your entire mindset toward a sport, leaving you unmotivated and unsure of yourself and your skill.

Although adrenaline caused by fear or anxiety may give you an initial burst of energy, you'll find it far more difficult to coordinate, plan or control your efforts under the combined forces of adrenaline and fear.

Joy and excitement improve your performance


Despite the common belief that anger can be channeled into powerful athletic capabilities, multiple studies have found that excitement, joy and happiness are actually more closely correlated to concentration and capability than negative emotions like anger and frustration. A positive mood, say from an activity like dating, can improve your psychological performance, help you focus more and assist in rapid problem solving—all critical skills on the field.

Happiness appears to be correlated to better focus, because doing something you enjoy and want to participate in, particularly competitively, more easily allows you to focus all your tasks. A bad mood or depression, on the other hand, can itself serve as a distraction from whatever athletic activity you're participating in.

You're more likely to zone in on the ball on your next step when you're able to focus on the goal of kicking the ball, passing the finish line or scoring the goal.

Your mood and your athletic ability are inherently connected. Whether your activities on the field improve your mood or whether your emotions negatively or positively impact your reaction time and focus, your psychology has a strong and noticeable impact on your athletic skills.

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