Mental health is just as important as physical health, but it often gets overlooked. Fortunately, martial arts are one activity that can benefit both your body and mind. Physical activity is generally great for people’s emotional states, but martial arts, in particular, encourage the kind of introspection and emotional control that can dramatically improve mental health. Practicing could have a marked effect on your mood and stress levels, as well as give you the tools to maintain a healthy mental perspective going forward. Here are just a few of the ways martial arts can benefit mental health:
Improves physical health
Though mental health affects how your brain thinks and feels, it can often have roots in how your body is functioning. Poor physical health can have an awful impact on your mental health. This can be direct – for example, if you experience chronic pain or illness, the symptoms of that condition can wear on your mental state. However, it can also be more subtle and insidious. Physical activity causes the brain to produce chemicals that reduce stress and increase happiness. Without activity, these chemicals aren’t released, and your mood drops.
The great thing about physical activity as a risk factor for mental health is that you can change it. Many people find that exercising more often has a significant effect on their emotional state. Picking up a physical hobby like martial arts gives you a regular source of physical activity, as well as guidance to ramp up the difficulty level at the appropriate rate. This means you don’t have to worry about potential injury from overexertion, which can discourage you from continuing. Instead, you can make healthy habits that will last.
Most physical activities increase confidence in one way or another, but martial arts are built on a foundation of encouraging self-trust and self-awareness. Trusting one’s own judgment and skill is a pillar of all martial arts practices. When you study, you learn how to hone your instincts and abilities, and gain a stronger understanding of what both your mind and body can do. Through practice, martial artists develop a deep and unshakable form of confidence they carry with them through all aspects of their lives.
Provides an outlet
Mental health issues can cause and be exacerbated by excess energy. For example, anxiety disorders often trigger a malfunction of the fight or flight response, which releases adrenaline. Since there’s no genuine threat, there’s nowhere for that energy to go, and as a result, the sufferer can crash, and the leftover adrenaline can manifest as stress, as well as physical symptoms. Any exercise can provide an outlet for this, but because martial arts is so explosive, many find it an ideal choice. Practice makes for a great way to work through any kind of powerful emotion, be it stress, sadness, anger or fear.
Encourages emotional awareness
The most important and unique thing martial arts offer to one’s mental health is emotional awareness and control. Unlike many other sports, martial arts actively calls for introspection. Practitioners are asked to consider their emotional state and motivations repeatedly throughout each class. This practice of actively checking in with one’s mental state, when done regularly, carries well beyond class time. Eventually, it becomes a habit martial artists bring with them at all times. Emotional awareness is a powerful tool, and martial artists learn to hone that tool and use it to their advantage. This is useful for anyone, but it can make a world of difference for someone dealing with mental illness.