The Benefits of BJJ for Mental Health
Mental health is, for lack of a better term, a hot topic of late. With a never ending stream of tips, tricks, and daily habits to improve your mental well-being, it’s clear that interest in improving mental health is at an all-time high.
BJJ has long been discussed in the community as a serious mental health booster, particularly when it comes to depression, anxiety, and other common psychological things individuals deal with on a regular basis.
If you have experience training, you can likely attest to BJJ’s effectiveness for improving general wellbeing.
This article breaks down the top reasons why Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can help you improve your mental health.
As a disclaimer, we do not want to make light of mental health. If you or someone you know are seriously struggling with mental health, consult a qualified healthcare provider before attempting to take anything into your own hands.
With that out of the way…
Let’s dive in!
1. Endorphins from hard exercise
Hard vigorous exercise is a great way to stimulate endorphins, the ‘natural high’ often associated with distance running or other extended, intense forms of exercise.
BJJ certainly falls into a category of intensity that can give you that great endorphin buzz, which leads to feelings of well being that extend beyond the training session.
Unlike artificial means of boosting your feel-good brain chemicals, BJJ is generally a positive activity that leads to improvements in other aspects of health, as opposed to making you feel good at the expense of your health.
You will experience this endorphin rush firsthand as you lie on the floor gasping for breath following an epic roll.
2. Improved self confidence
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is far more than just hard exercise. It is a physical skill that gives you the ability to defend yourself in some (but not all) nasty situations you may encounter in life.
For the most part, the effectiveness of BJJ for self defense is not disputed in the martial arts community.
After training for some time and ingraining a few basic self defense techniques, you will naturally walk around with less anxiety and more confidence, simply because you are less threatened by strangers. This is especially true if you tend to be anxious around strangers or in social situations.
3. Positive, supportive community
A sense of community is key to human well-being. Especially when it comes to mental health, a strong, positive, and supportive community can make or break you psychological well being.
Although disputes occur among prominent BJJ athletes and coaches, for the most part, the average experience for most practitioners is one of friendship with most training partners at their gym and ultimately, fitting in to a community built around training BJJ.
In many ways, the community at your gym will likely influence your long term BJJ journey more than any other factor.
Finding the right gym with the right vibe is key to this whole equation.
Luckily, most areas have at least two BJJ gyms, so you should have some choice in gyms.
Once you fall into place in your BJJ community, your sense of mental well-being will grow, drastically improving your mental health over time.
4. A sense of purpose and identity
Life is great is you have a job you love or a career that fulfills your passions and calling.
However, for many of us, a job is a place we show up, fulfill our tasks, and make living to support our family, pay bills, and of course, pay gym membership dues.
At the risk of sounding disparaging, many of us do not want our personality and character defined based on what we do to pay our bills.
If you train BJJ for the long term, you are a martial artist and BJJ practitioner. You may work a so-so job to make ends meet, but you define yourself based on your commitment to training.
Of course, you might risk becoming a BJJ meme if you go around spouting off about Jiu Jitsu constantly.
But at the very least, you have an identity beyond your day job.
Additionally, if training becomes a primary purpose in life, it gives you something different to care about that also improves your overall life.
This sense of purpose and identity can go a long way towards improving your mental health and wellbeing.
5. Engraining healthy habits
Beyond exercise and community, overall healthy habits are key for long term mental health.
Eating a healthy diet, getting adequate water and sleep, and managing stress are vital for keeping you sane and mentally well through the ups and downs of life.
Often, healthy living and BJJ training go hand-in-hand. It is difficult to sustain an unhealthy diet and lifestyle while finding the time and energy to train and physically recover from BJJ.
If you get bit by the BJJ bug, it becomes a lot easier to justify and stay disciplined with a healthy lifestyle.
Trying to ‘be healthier’ is a nebulous and unexciting goal.
On the other hand, feeling good at practice or not puking to a hard knee-on-belly are more tangible, shorter-term, and potentially motivating goals.
Once you gain momentum on living the healthy lifestyle for BJJ, you will see improvements to your mental health that fit alongside the other benefits we have discussed.
BJJ for mental health: the bottom line
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has so many different benefits it is difficult to quality them all.
Depending on who you are psychologically speaking, the personal benefits you reap from BJJ will be different.
If mental health is a concern for you, then BJJ can potentially offer an excellent solution to help round out whatever other treatments or activities you do to stay mentally well throughout your life.