I am a woman. I am an introvert. I am not an avid football fan. Why do I love Super Bowl Sunday?
I thought about this and wondered what does the effect of the Super Bowl have on our overall well-being? I found that this big game is actually pretty meaningful.
Our Need For Connection
When we’re kids we make friends easily and have lots of opportunities in school to do so, but when we grow up, it becomes increasingly more difficult to make real friends.
Social networks offer us opportunities to connect but often leave use feeling disconnected and depressed instead. As a result, many of us end up feeling isolated and without any sense of belonging.
In her book, Alone Together, MIT Social Psychologist, Sherry Turkle, PhD does a meta-analysis of interviews with over 300 children and 150 adults. The results show that people who choose to devote large portions of their time to connecting online are more isolated than ever in their non-virtual lives, leading to emotional disconnection, mental fatigue and anxiety.
In short, social media consumption is up but real-life social connections are down.
Back when I worked for a local LA TV station, I ran the football pool for the station that year and I made a lot of friends I would not otherwise have even met. As an aside, I actually won the pool, which made all the guys mad because I knew nothing about football and literally was just guessing at the winners each week. But it taught me the power of football to bring people together.
How often do you get 111 million people all doing the same thing at that same time these days? The answer is only once a year, on Super Bowl Sunday. If you think about it, that is one astounding community event.
Participating in the Super Bowl by going to a party or watching the game with friends, is one opportunity to connect you to your community. Research shows that individuals with strong attachments to their community are proven to feel that they can overcome obstacles because they perceive themselves as part of a cohesive social network and can even protect against the long-term effects of childhood violence.
Your Brain on Football
On the subject of watching football, Dr. Mason Turner, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and assistant regional director of mental health, said. “People can get pretty activated, pretty engaged.” The limbic system of your brain—the part that deals with fight-or-flight, and competitiveness—is highly engaged during the process and translates to extreme emotions, such as yelling at the TV.”
Who hasn’t experienced this excitement watching a Super Bowl?
It’s because football is fun! My husband is the best example of someone who hardly follows football but can get so invested in a game rooting for whoever is the underdog that you’d think he was a life-long fan.
The Benefits of Superbowl Sunday
What happens as a result of being a part of this massive community event? It’s sparks micro-connections.
Research has also shown that following a team, even when they’re losing more often than not, can help a fan foster a healthy sense of optimism, because there’s always next season to look forward to.
Sense of Belonging
Daniel Wann, PhD, author of Sport Fans: The Psychology and Social Impact of Spectators, says “We’ve known for decades that social support — our tribal networks — is largely responsible for keeping people mentally sound, whether it’s our religious organizations, our business or vocation affiliations, our communities, or our families. We have a psychological need to belong.
In treating depression, a study at the University of Michigan School of Nursing showed that regardless of how many friends you have, or how often you socialize with them, if you don’t feel that you belong, your social network will have little effect helping your depression.
According to a review in The Online Journal of Sports Psychology, aligning yourself with a football or baseball team can give you a sense of belonging and social connection.
We usually form bonds to our favorite teams in childhood from watching the games with our family and friends but sometimes, just our affiliation with a city can be enough.
For instance, I did not grow up in a family of sports fans but I spent a good amount of my childhood living in New Hampshire, so rooting for New England gives me a sense of nostalgic civic pride and belonging to that tribe.
This Sunday, people will be hosting Super Bowl parties all across America, some will even host them at churches, like ours, and play a game of flag football with the community.
You don’t have to be a football fan to participate in Super Bowl Sunday, but if you decide to, you will be joining in on the largest annual community event we have available today.
Being with others to watch the game, even if strangers, can connect you to your community. Rooting for your childhood team can give you a sense of belonging which can lift your depression. Watching the Super Bowl can spur real-life micro-connections for you.
Super Bowl Sunday is more meaningful than you think. What will you do with this opportunity to connect to your community?
I’d love to hear about it in the comments.
Welcome to Honey & Figs! I’m Lisa. I love helping people with practical ways to live more abundant lives based on my own experience. You can click here to find out more about me.
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