Playing a sport is one of the most effective ways to relieve stress, and basketball is one of the most popular sports to do so. It has multiple physical and mental benefits in addition to reducing stress, while still being easy and fun to play.
Basketball can help with stress because it channels the cortisol and adrenaline hormones that are released during a stressful situation. Moreover, exercise releases the hormones called endorphins and dopamine, which make you feel happier and help subdue adrenaline. Lastly, basketball can help to manage stress thanks to the social component it has.
The following article is a more detailed description of how playing basketball a few times a week can better manage stress.
Basketball is a Great Stress Reliever
Exercise of any kind, including basketball, is a proven stress reliever. Whether it’s alone in a professional facility or with a team at the neighborhood court, playing basketball positively affects the body mentally as well as physically. A few of the things that playing basketball as a form of exercise can do for your mental health include:
- Releasing the negative effects of stress
- Improving your mood
- Having your brain focus on something else for a while
Shooting Hoops Helps Release the Negative Effects of Stress
Stress leads to the buildup of hormones called cortisol and adrenaline in the brain. The normal function of cortisol is to regulate blood sugar levels in the body and get the body back to normal after it experiences a small or short stressful occurrence. However, too much of this hormone can cause the brain to be unable to release enough of it in time to make more, leading to cortisol buildup.
The buildup makes it harder for the brain to function properly, especially in areas regarding social interaction and the fight or flight response. When you play basketball, the cortisol that causes the regulating effects on the brain is given a healthy outlet of release so that it doesn’t fester in your brain and create a damaging cycle.
Also, adrenaline is the response hormone to a stressful situation. Adrenaline is released during a stressful situation in order to make sure the brain responds correctly and either gets out of the situation or fights the stressor. But when the stressor isn’t physically present or is primarily affecting you mentally, the adrenaline hormone isn’t able to perform its function properly since there’s nothing physical to defend yourself against.
Any exercise, like basketball, makes the physical response possible and lets adrenaline release its fight or flight response onto something that won’t get hurt or hurt you in the process. It’s a healthy and fun method of responding to a stressful situation that will positively affect you physically and mentally.
Improving Your Mood
Playing basketball causes the release of a few other hormones called endorphins and dopamine. These are commonly referred to as “feel-good” hormones because they counteract the effects of chronic stress.
Endorphins are responsible for calming down the brain after an adrenaline rush, which can be caused by the consistent buildup of stress in the brain. The effects of an adrenaline rush that’s related to a stressful event include:
- Increased heart rate
- Higher blood pressure
Doing something that’s physically and mentally taxing for exercise, such as playing basketball, causes the brain to decrease the production of adrenaline and increase the production of endorphins. The body is able to release the pent up adrenaline and thus make more room for hormones that help the body feel good.
Dopamine is similar to endorphins in that it’s also a “feel-good” hormone, but the way it helps with stress is a bit different. While endorphins make the brain feel calmer after a stressful event, dopamine makes the brain feel happier, similar to a feeling of euphoria. The production of these hormones occurs whenever the brain is occupied with something fun, such as playing a game.
Playing basketball is a fun way to exercise and a fun way to socialize, so the brain gets a great opportunity to release dopamine and lessen the mental effects of stress. Dopamine can also help to reduce pain perception, making the problem you’re dealing with seem like less of a problem and something that can be easily handled.
Playing basketball to exercise helps with the production of both of these hormones, effectively reducing the effects of stress in a mental as well as physical manner.
Focusing on Something Else for A While
Finally, playing basketball for exercise helps you to take your mind off whatever is worrying you. The game requires you to focus on a lot of things, all at the same time. The brain can only focus on so many things at a time, so it focuses on whatever the body is doing at the current moment.
For example, you have to focus on moving along the court while dribbling the ball and thinking about what would be the best way to get the ball in the hoop. When it scoring, you have to concentrate on specific strategies or learn certain plays in order to maximize your chances of scoring.
The amount of concentration and focus that this requires makes the brain unable to focus on the outside stressor and zero in on making it past the physical obstacles in its way. When there is something more physical to focus on, the brain prioritizes that instead of the invisible mental thing.
Furthermore, dribbling can help you to improve your concentration. Not just while playing basketball, but when dealing with whatever is stressing you out. Dribbling a basketball forces you to focus on one particular object and keeping it in place, away from opponents. In regard to dealing with a stressor, this exercise can help you train your brain to focus on one thing at a time in order to solve a bigger problem.
Because of these factors, your brain is less able to focus on whatever is stressing you out while you’re playing basketball. The focus shifts to the movement of your body and the goals of scoring points and avoiding opponents. The less your brain is focused on the stressor, the less adrenaline it produces. After taking your mind off of the problem for a while, you’ll be able to focus on solving it with a clearer state of mind once you finish the basketball game.
Improves Your Social Life
Basketball can be played alone, but it is more commonly played as a team sport. Playing basketball alone can still help you to achieve the benefits discussed prior, but they tend to be maximized when playing with a team. In fact, playing basketball with a group of friends or new people has more benefits than playing it alone. Some of these benefits include:
- Increased self-esteem and confidence
- Improved communication skills
- Having a supportive community
Increased Self-Esteem and Confidence
Morale is a huge part of team sports. The higher the morale at the time, the better the team feels about playing, and the better the team performs in games. This mainly applies to professional teams, but casual team sports also require high morale to keep the playing field fun for everyone.
Because of this, teammates are often very encouraging and supportive of their other teammates on and off the court. From congratulating and complimenting each other when they score, to consoling them whenever they make a mistake or have a bad game. This encouragement can lead to an increase in your sense of self-esteem as well as confidence.
Regarding managing stress, having an increased sense of self-esteem and more confidence you can help you feel more ready and able to tackle any of the problems that are stressing you out. Stress can cause you to feel bogged down by everything you and your mind must deal with.
Applying the support and encouragement of your teammates to these problems can you help you to manage stress more effectively and help you feel more confident in your ability to solve those problems.
Improved Communication Skills
Basketball also requires communication to be successful, both verbal and nonverbal. You need to communicate a lot of important information to your teammates in a short amount of time. For example, you might need to communicate to one team member how they can score with the current defender they have.
Having good communication skills can not only help you in winning basketball games, but it can also help you with managing stress. Similar to how keeping the physical exertion needed for stress relief in your body can be unhelpful, not discussing what’s stressing you out or asking for help from others can cause you to feel more stressed.
Talking about any stress you are currently experiencing with people you trust, in this case teammates, can help you to better understand the ins and outs of the problem. The more you understand it, the easier you can come up with a solution. Having a teammate weigh in on the issue can also help you figure out the best course of action.
The more you communicate about your stress problems, the better you can analyze and solve them either on your own or with help from others.
Having A Supportive Community
Lastly, having a group of people you can spend time with that also have your back can help manage your stress. Humans are naturally social creatures, and we need some amount of social interaction to help us function normally. Having little to no social interaction can negatively affect how we view ourselves as well our relationships in life.
When playing basketball with a team, you automatically have a group of people that you value and enjoy spending time with. And they are very likely to also value you and enjoy your company. As a result, you feel a stronger attachment to each other and feel more obligated to help each other in times of need.
Knowing that you have a group of supporters behind you releases a hormone called oxytocin, which makes you feel wanted and valued. This hormone combats stress related hormones and thus makes you feel less stressed over long periods of time.
Furthermore, the friends you make through basketball presents the opportunity to make new friends with the people they interact with when they’re off the court. The result is a positive cycle of meeting new people, making new friends, and having a growing support network to help you.
Playing on a Basketball Team vs Playing Alone
The benefits of playing basketball are no doubt apparent, but the question of playing alone versus playing on a team still stands. You can easily get almost all of the benefits of playing basketball while playing alone on a court, but you get more social beneficial effects from playing on a team.
Playing Basketball Alone
Playing basketball alone is a great mental and physical workout. When it comes to the physical side, basketball requires a significant amount of stamina and strength. You will be running back and forth dribbling the ball constantly, while shooting hoops from multiple spots throughout the court.
The constant physical exertion leads to a higher amount of stamina as well as building muscle and bone strength. Concerning managing stress, a physically healthy body is better equipped to handle the mentally damaging effects of stress. Staying healthy helps the brain to more easily regulate the release of stress hormones and feel-good hormones, helping you to respond correctly to the stressor while not letting it affect you detrimentally.
Playing Basketball With a Team
You can get all of the benefits mentioned prior while also playing on a team, though it might be a little harder to find a group of people you enjoy playing with. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find a basketball team that can work for you. A few ways you can find a basketball team include searching online for leagues near you joining a club at a local community center or gym.
Searching for local basketball teams in your area is one of the quickest ways to find a team to play with. This mainly applies if you want to play basketball more seriously and participate in state or county wide tournaments and matches, but playing in a league can help you get in the habit of playing basketball regularly. A little friendly competition can also be a healthy stress reliever as well.
The main downside of playing in a league is that you usually must audition to get in or pay to participate. If showing off your skills in front of others or concerns related to money are big stressors for you, then playing in a league isn’t the best option.
You can also search online for any basketball clubs that your local gym or community center hosts. They usually have no entry fee and welcome anyone that wants to play or learn how to play. It’s also a great way to meet new people and obtain the social skills and benefits of playing basketball discussed earlier.
Easy Way to Stay Physically and Mentally Healthy
The last factor in how basketball can help to relieve stress is that it’s an easy and inexpensive way to stay healthy. We’ve already discussed how joining a professional team can be costly, but aside from that, basketball is one of the most inexpensive sports you can play.
The main piece of equipment that you need is a basketball court. They can be found in multiple locations that are within walking distance or just a short drive away. These locations include:
- The neighborhood playground or park
- Your school courtyard or gym
- Your own driveway
The park or playground in your neighborhood is bound to come equipped with a basketball court. All you must do is walk or ride your bike to it, and you’re ready to play. If that isn’t the case, then your school more than likely has a basketball court you can access in the courtyard or the gym itself.
If neither of those options work, then your driveway makes for a perfect makeshift basketball court. All you need to do is purchase a basketball hoop that you can set up on your garage door or on the edge of your driveway. They are usually inexpensive, and you’ll have your own personal basketball court right outside your door.
Once you have your court, the only other two pieces of equipment you need are basketball and comfortable clothes. Basketballs are also usually inexpensive, and you can purchase one online or at your local sports store. You can play basketball in any clothes you’re comfortable with, whether they be workout clothes or more casual clothes. Sneakers are also recommended to be worn while playing since you’ll be running around a lot, but any sneakers will work.
Basketball is a great way to exercise and stay physically fit, while also managing stress in a healthy way. Playing a few times a week, whether alone or with a team, can you help to achieve a higher quality of life while still having some fun.