As human beings, we all have and need hobbies—whether it's hiking, fishing, or playing sports. These hobbies provide us with a distraction from our busy work schedules, allowing us to reset and maintain a proper work-life balance.
One hobby that has gained massive popularity over the years is fantasy football. Sixty million people participate in fantasy sports in the United States and Canada. According to the Fantasy Sports and Gaming Association, football is the top sport with 40 million participants.
With the amount of research and possibilities that fantasy owners put themselves through, it’s important to ask: how is fantasy football affecting your mental health?
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In an age and era where technology has made people more isolated than ever before, fantasy football plays an important role in providing a technological platform where people can interact socially and compete with friends.
According to a 2010 study, living longer can be associated with having stronger friendships. The very essence of fantasy football is to ensure that you not only compete but also get the opportunity to do so in a social way and strengthen your relationships.
If you've played fantasy football before, you know it involves a lot of decision-making based on data from online sources and your own 'expert' opinion every single day during a fantasy football season.
Whether you're deciding on which players you're going to add/remove from your team, or which players you're going to bench based on the weekly matchups, you have to employ critical thinking and decision-making.
Critical thinking has multiple benefits for the mind. It enhances your communication skills, teaches you to be time conscious, and allows you to understand and appreciate the importance of people sharing different worldviews.
It is in our nature as human beings to be competitive, and fantasy football provides us with an avenue to channel our competitive feelings. For a sport that millions watch every week, fantasy football adds to the experience by marrying a social and competitive element into one.
According to Psychology Today, our competitive feelings indicate what we desire, and when we acknowledge this, we get the chance to know ourselves better.
In the weeks leading up to the opening of the NFL season, most fantasy football fanatics start gearing up for the season. Fans do intensive research on players and go through preseason player rankings to narrow down who they want to draft for their team. Trying to account for what players you want and keeping up with it every week can add stress to what should be a fun hobby. “Should I start Devante Adams or Hopkins?” and “Will Mahomes ever be the same?” are common questions fantasy owners ponder but may ultimately only add stress.
You can become addicted to playing fantasy football, and this becomes a problem when it starts competing with work and other day-to-day activities that require your time and attention. Sometimes, in extreme cases, this affects relationships with spouses and other people.
Also, many fantasy football leagues have money tied into them, which can be a problem for people with gambling issues. Not only is this financial component addictive, but it also creates additional stress, especially with the unpredictability of the NFL.
Apart from being addicted to the internet and always being glued to your phone, other symptoms of addiction to fantasy football may include:
These heightened stress levels take a toll on your body and can leave you suffering from headaches, weight loss/gain, and insomnia, among other negative side effects.
It is important to note that fantasy football is meant to help us unplug, and there is nothing wrong with playing it, as long as you are keen not to devote too much time and energy to it.
Your mental health is intertwined with your physical health. Take care of your mental health by practicing healthy fantasy football-playing habits. If you feel like fantasy football or any fantasy sports league is taking a toll on you, consider giving it up for a year and seeing how you feel. You could even replace it with physical activity such as going for a brisk walk or jog.
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