NewsLocal News


‘Sports high’: Psychologist explains the chemical reaction that comes with a trifecta of wins

Posted at 5:56 PM, Sep 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-27 20:24:19-04

MILWAUKEE — A trio of big wins Sunday has some Wisconsin sports fans calling it one of the best weekends they can remember in professional sports.

If you’re a golf fan, part of the Brew Crew, a 'Cheesehead', or better yet, all three, you’re probably still riding the sports high of an unbelievable weekend. A psychologist suggests putting the chemical reaction in your brain to good use.

It was the ultimate ‘Sunday Funday’ for sports fans in Wisconsin, starting with Team U.S.A.’s victory at the first Ryder Cup held in the state, followed by the Milwaukee Brewers clinching a divisional championship at home. To top it all off, the Green Bay Packers came from behind to win on a field goal as time ran out.

Poster image - 2021-09-27T185948.422.jpg
Poster image - 2021-09-27T190002.440.jpg

The Sunday celebration continues into the start of the work week for fans who are still reveling in all three.

“How did we get so lucky?” asked Caige Tubic. “How did we get so lucky?”

“You feel the chills on your arms and stuff just knowing that you’ve been a part of it,” said Phillip Harvey.

“I think it does something to your mindset, it makes you happy,” said Bert Sisk.

Medical College of Wisconsin psychology professor Dr. Himanshu Agrawal says that happy feeling comes from a naturally produced chemical called dopamine. When it’s released in large amounts, it creates a feeling of pleasure and reward.

“If you did a functional PET scan of those brains, the places in the brain that release dopamine, the reward center, they would be lighting up, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping,” said Dr. Agrawal. “Almost like you won at the slot machine. Of course, there’s less risk involved in watching sports for most of us than going to the casino.”

Poster image - 2021-09-27T190011.272.jpg
Dr. Himanshu Agrawal

Dr. Agrawal says the joyous feeling from a large boost of dopamine doesn’t last longer than a few days, but it does create a higher level of motivation before it wears off. Dr. Agrawal suggests putting that energy into good use.

“The good news is especially with three separate incidents so close to each other that each released dopamine, you can capitalize on it,” he said. “So, what I would say to everyone who’s feeling that high today, capitalize on it. Use this maybe on your to-do list, if there is something else you know will bring you happiness but it was a little bit too much work to do, use this dopamine boost you’ve gotten to get that next thing.”

Even if you don’t have a daunting household chore or a big goal to accomplish in the short term, Dr. Agrawal urges sports fans to use the chemical reaction to build on positive thinking, something many Wisconsinites could use 18 months into the pandemic.

“I do think there is such thing as healthy, helpful, magical thinking, right? For many of us who believe that maybe this is a sign that things are beginning to change. If you’re thinking this is a sign, use it. Use that magical thinking to help you,” he said.

Report a typo or error // Submit a news tip