We’re in the middle of a stress epidemic. Money worries, family issues, pressure at work, post-pandemic anxiety – there are lots of things keeping Canadians up at night. It’s no wonder that demand for adult mental health services rose 47% between 2021 and 2022, while demand for children and youth services more than doubled.
Stress is known as the silent killer. Over time, high levels of stress can cause heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. There is some good news though – regular exercise can help. Joining a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class doesn’t just give you all the wonderful benefits of physical activity, it also encourages a healthy mind with an emphasis on focus, stillness, mindfulness, and self-control.
Clearing the mind – Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for focus and concentration
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is not your average martial art. This fighting style relies on quick thinking, precise technique, and discipline. All of which means training the mind as much as the body.
With BJJ, fighters have to quickly assess their environment and their opponent, as well as anticipate what they’ll do next. This requires a lot of focus, you need to be able to keep your cool in the middle of a fight and make calculated decisions that’ll put you on top.
That depth of focus doesn’t always come naturally, that’s why we spend time drilling the moves and explaining techniques until every student knows exactly what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. This helps bring students into a ‘flow state’ – where they are completely focused on the task in front of them.
Also known as being ‘in the zone’ this is a kind of heightened attention and mindfulness that triggers the dopamine reward system in your brain. When you come to a class at Innisfil Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (IBJJ), you leave your worries at the door so you can learn Jiu Jitsu, practice Jiu Jitsu, and think Jiu Jitsu.
In reaching this level of concentration, we get a helping hand from mother nature. When people fight – even in a controlled, safe environment like the IBJJ gym – their bodies release a powerful cocktail of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These send a signal to the brain to be on high alert and sharpen our focus. Chronic stress is bad for the body but this kind of acute, short-lived stress actually enhances our performance and is good for our brain.
BJJ for mental health and wellbeing
You’ve probably heard of a runner’s high but did you know you can also get a fighter’s high? Intense exercise releases a protein known as Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. This important protein doesn’t just help with memory and learning. It also reduces depression and anxiety by producing a feeling of euphoria.
There’s nothing like the feeling of finally nailing a technique you’ve been practicing for weeks, or taking on a bigger, stronger opponent and winning. Our coaches see it every day – students coming off the mat happier, more confident, and feeling like they can take on anything life throws at them.
We want to nurture and encourage that feeling, giving our younger students the ability to connect with it even outside the gym. That’s why we make time in every youth class for a short meditation break.
This teaches students the importance of taking a breath and clearing their mind when things get overwhelming. Even our youngest students participate in meditation – sure, our four year olds can’t even spell meditation let alone grasp what it’s about, but getting them to sit in stillness just for a few moments starts them on that path to better mental health.
The benefits of meditation are well-established – making it a part of your regular routine reduces depression and stress, increases self-esteem, controls anxiety, and even helps you sleep better. During the pandemic, many of our students relied on the meditation practices they learned in class to help them cope with isolation and fear.
We don’t just teach our students how to take on the opponent in front of them, we teach them how to take on the world, and how to take care of themselves.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or joining one of our youth or adult classes, get in touch. We offer a free introductory session so you can get to know our gym and our classes without obligation. Book your free class now to get started!