Affectionate sportsmen are happier with life

Sportsmen who display physical affection to their teammates may be happier as a result. This is the suggestion of new research published in the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, which found expressing emotions can give males a mental edge in competition and in general life.

Investigators at Indiana University-Bloomington considered the example of US college football players and found that although these men feel under pressure to conform to gender roles, those who are never affectionate toward their fellow competitors tend to be less satisfied with life.

Psychologist Jesse Steinfeldt of the university - which has over 200 research centres and institutes - said: "Overall, college football players who strive to be stronger and are emotionally expressive are more likely to have a mental edge on and off the field."

The report concluded that although football players need to be physically tough in order to succeed, they also feel under pressure to behave in a stereotypical way - which could have a negative impact on their psyche.

Dr David Nias, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "Displaying emotion can help people to relax, if only temporarily, especially in situations where they are under a lot of stress.

"In contrast, trying to repress or hide emotions or 'bottling it up' can act to increase the feeling of stress and so reduce energy levels (and happiness).
That is why sports coaches usually encourage being emotional when in the middle of a sports event - even though it can be counter-productive (such as a yellow card for footballers who over-celebrate a goal). 

"It certainly helps sports stars and indeed anyone in a stressful occupation, to be tough (both mentally and physically) otherwise the continuing stress would soon get to them.

"Even the toughest of people tend to suffer ailments when under prolonged stress (e.g. illnesses that follow life events such as losing at sport or one's job).

"Behaving in a stereotypical way can help or hinder performance. Coaches recommend having a set ritual on competition days so as to help sports stars to 'feel at home'.

"But if this set ritual (putting on an act) is not in accord with one's nature, then it can become stressful. Better if we can act naturally when faced with stressful situations.

"Going against our natural tendencies would tend act to reduce energy levels at the very time energy (and a clear focus) is most needed."