The link between physical activity and well-being has gained momentum in recent years, so to mark this year's Happiness Day, we thought we would take a look at whether playing a sport such as hockey can make you happy. Some of the players hoping to find happiness at the Rabobank Hockey World Cup spoke to us about why they loved playing hockey.
The benefits of playing sport are well-known: exercise is the number 1 weapon against obesity and it's associated illnesses; taking part in activity can increase self confidence and a feeling of worth; it provides opportunities to socialise; the list of positives go on. But how do elite hockey players feel about playing sport? Can you still feel happy when playing sport is also your career?
Aline Fobe, one of the stars of the Belgium women's hockey team, said: "For me the benefits of playing hockey are clear; getting to know new people, staying fit, having a good time… I don't know why more people don't play sport."
Teammate Jill Boon added her own positive slant on the joys of playing hockey: "It's about friends, discipline, the idea of working hard not only for yourself but also for the team. Also I think the feeling of winning an important game with your team is one of the best to have."
Across the other side of the globe, captain of the New Zealand Blacksticks Kayla Sharland was in complete agreement: "Playing team sports allows you to make so many life-long friends, and there are many other qualities such as self-confidence and the development of various skills necessary for success in employment, relationships and other areas of life that impact a person’s overall well-being".
It isn’t just players and athletes that can find happiness through sport. Coaches, match officials, ground staff and everyone else involved can find purpose in sport and it’s clear that watching sport, in person or on television, brings a lot of enjoyment to people around the world. Again, if you watch the coach's reactions during particularly close matches or if their team is playing badly, 'happy' might not be the most appropriate word, but generally coaches will say that they get a real buzz and lift from their involvement.
Not only is playing a team sport good for you in terms of getting active, sports participation can also help improve mental health. The long-term health benefits of physical activity are likely to contribute to increased psychological well-being and, in the short-term, exercise causes a secretion of endorphins, creating a ‘natural high’ and helping combat stress. That doesn't mean that hockey players competing at an event such as the Rabobank Hockey World Cup will not be feeling stress; far from it. But in everyday life, it seems our hockey heroes should be a happy bunch.
Taking the wider view, sport can also play a role in increasing the happiness of society as a whole. Well run programmes can, for example, have an impact on local crime rates, others may assist community cohesion by promoting the integration of migrants, combating discrimination or promoting communication between different groups in a post-conflict environment.
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