3 Major Ways Jiu Jitsu Improves Your Mental Health When You Are Really Struggling
Location: Moose Jaw, SK
It’s a familiar feeling, emotionally exhausted, your life crashing all around you… We’ve all been there, barely able to drag ourselves out of bed. Sleeping to forget and waking up only to remember the pain all over again. Tears blur your vision, but you put on your Gi anyway, and you force yourself to step onto those mats. You dread every moment that is to come, but you well know that you desperately need it. It is the healing powers of Jiu-Jitsu that we have come for. We might be at our lowest, but we cling to Jiu-Jitsu – Our small glimmer of light in a sometimes dark, dark world.
Jiu-Jitsu is a mental journey just as much as it is a physical one. It can be used as a tool to navigate through the hard times in life and to help improve our overall mental health when we are struggling. Here are three ways that training Jiu-Jitsu can improve your mental health when you are really struggling:
It helps with Anxiety
Training Jiu-Jitsu can help ease anxiety or at least teach you how to better channel your stress. Jiu-Jitsu makes you train your mind to focus on all that is happening at the moment. Your mind has no time to wander down the trails of despair; you must simply survive in the NOW. Nothing else exists in those seconds; even time itself is warped. Seconds can feel like hours; several minutes can go by in a blink. As you survive under extreme pressure, you test your strength, remind yourself of your capabilities, and your body enjoys feeling the surge of adrenaline and dopamine.
Jiu-Jitsu = Antidepressant
With adrenaline comes dopamine and all of those feel-good hormones. While exercise, in general, can be a form of antidepressant, Jiu-Jitsu is unique because it acknowledges your physical needs through calculated and vigorous activity AND answers your social needs by allowing you the opportunity to connect with the people you train with. Sometimes mindless, tedious exercise can feel like a chore. In contrast, Jiu-Jitsu engages and challenges you physically AND mentally, allowing you to use your problem-solving skills and allowing the strenuous, demanding physicality to become more manageable as you fully engage your mind. The bonus is that you get to share your experience with a group of incredible people and grow healthy friendships.
It improves Confidence and Promotes Positive Body Image
Training Jiu-Jitsu can be a positive way to channel your energy, and it has multiple payoffs when it comes to your wellbeing and happiness. Regular exercise through training is good for your physical health and consequently improves your confidence. Showing up, learning, training, struggling, improving – with that dedication comes a sense of achievement. You also become familiar with confrontation, turn into a better problem solver, and acquire the ability to communicate through movement as you increase your body awareness. It feels good to look in the mirror and be happy with what and who you see. It feels empowering to know you understand how to conduct yourself in difficult situations.
We ALL struggle in life and on the mats at some point… we’re human. Sometimes it takes everything to keep it together and just make it to class. But if you can, do just one thing – SHOW UP. Sometimes that is all that we can do: Show up and survive. And THAT IS OK!! Jiu-Jitsu is challenging enough to distract you and take you into a different mindset, and encourages you to self-reflect and gain perspective. Its equal parts escape and confrontation. You get away from the world for a little while, but you come face to face with yourself in your rawest form.
Jiu-Jitsu is therapy, so embrace the tears, the sweat, the being at your absolute wit’s end, wasted, gasping for breath, face purple, hair matted and wet, arms open to the ceiling, body melted on the mats, chest heaving in and out…And, after all of that… a slight grin escapes my lips as relief and contentment pour over me.