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Jiu Jitsu for Mental Health
Can BJJ keep your mind in check?
The stigma of mental health has begun to diminish due to cultural changes exploring new ways to improve our psychology. Anxiety and depression affect millions of individuals worldwide in a pandemic form with no cure in sight. Interest in non-pharmaceutical modes of mental healing have begun to take stage and are showing promising results. Some of these new ways of psychological treatment include meditation, exercise, and yoga. I have always wondered whether Jiu Jitsu can improve our mental health in new ways that may not be expected.
Although many psychological disorders are ideological and not fully understood, we know that stress plays a big role in promoting negative thought patterns and exacerbating low moods. From my own experience, Jiu Jitsu has been a tool I use consistently to alleviate stress from school and work, and it has been working quite well. The improvement may not be specific to Jiu Jitsu itself but the physical requirements implicit in the art. However, Jiu Jitsu has always been much more interesting to do than running on a treadmill or lifting weights.
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Jiu Jitsu requires a level of focus that the daily average task may not. Even for the unskilled, rolling has a unique effect on the mind where one forgets all the problems that life has dealt them so as to focus on surviving. Putting our bodies into survival mode has tremendous benefits as those seen from fasting or sitting in a sauna. Although rolling is not fighting just like fasting is not starving, the simulation helps mimic circumstances in which our bodies and minds must work harder, naturally leading to improvement. The high level of concentration during rolling also resembles the state of mind when meditating, which has been shown to have profound effects on mental health.
For many, grappling is also a means of expressing emotion in a physical but safe manner. Very rarely are people provided the opportunity to vent and express the way they feel; transforming our emotions into physical actions under guided rules can have a profound impact on our long-term relaxation. This phenomenon may especially help men, who are more aggressive by nature.
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I have not seen any studies regarding the benefits of Jiu Jitsu on mental health. Most of the information presented comes from my personal experience and anecdotes from numerous people I have met in person and online who claim the same benefits. Although I am firm believer Jiu Jitsu can improve our mental health, it is still important to see a professional for help if your experiencing symptoms.