Recently I had a bad day… a sad, anxious day. And then I had a bad run. Coincidence? I wondered. So I hit the internet in search of answers. How much does mood affect our sports performance?
The first study that I found looked at the influence of five emotions (happiness, anger, anxiety, sadness, and an emotion-neutral state) on muscle force, jump height, and velocity of a thrown ball. Interestingly, both happiness AND anger were associated with better performance than the other three emotional conditions. This makes sense, huh? I’ve had equally fast runs when I’m either ecstatically happy or unbelievably angry. A little more investigation, though, and I found another study suggesting that anger may actually be more effective than happiness for increasing performance, especially in extroverts. Grrrr. To really get after it, do you need to be an angry, outgoing person?
Not so fast (pun intended). These previous studies looked at the influence of emotions on individual performance measures. By contrast, a study of emotions in basketball players, videotaped and interviewed over six games, found that happiness predicted successful game involvement, whereas both anger and embarrassment were significant predictors of increased unsuccessful game strategies. So, in essence, in a team sport, a positive mood may facilitate sports performance more than in an individual sport, which would also make sense, because no matter how good you are, no one likes an angry team player.
Finally, I found one more interesting piece of evidence regarding exercise and mood. In a study of 467 athletes, researchers reported that sport satisfaction is directly related to emotional state. In other words, the more positive you are, the more you enjoy your sport. Or, the more you enjoy your sport, the more positive you will be– it’s not clear. But, regardless, it appears that positive emotions are directly associated with enjoyment of exercise, even if the relationship to performance isn’t as clear. So, be happy, not snappy.