Being a part of the bjj community you often hear about how effective bjj is when it comes to dealing with various anxiety driven disorders such as post traumatic stress, depression, panic attacks and others.
Recently a research was conducted observing the effects of bjj on veterans suffering from PTSD only to find that they’re more responsive to this type of treatment than any of the traditional therapy approaches including medication.
“When we look at the brain of a depressed person studies show that the hippocampus tends to be much smaller than average. This region in particular controls memory and emotion. And the longer the person has been depressed the smaller the hippocampus is. “
Memory is one very significant aspect of the story but first – we must deal with the initial stage.
Once a person manages to overcome anxiety enough to appear at brazilian jiu-jitsu class they are initially jolted by the threat of imminent danger. For someone who is not used to the martial arts, first class can be quite a traumatic as the degree of pain an discomfort experienced is quite new.
This jolts the fight or flight response which may give them the initial strength to start dealing with being depressed.
Chemically speaking, plenty of hormones and contact make for bursts of oxytocin, beta-endorphin, noradrenaline and even serotonin. All of these make forming bonds that much easier, but in addition to it they also help the brain self medicate.
But there’s more to consider – if you’ve seen the video above it discusses how the deterioration of connections between cells in the brain is actually to blame for much of depression. This is another area where jiu-jitsu is of most help. Through the nature of jiu-jitsu, the mental chess sort of speak we all learn to go against our instincts and to manage ourselves in a variety of situations. This unique combo where you get more fit and at the same time you’re basically learning a new motor skill allows for your brain to flourish. When we learn a new skill we’re essentially changing how our brain is wired on a deep level.
Through learning something new the increased neural activity actually translates to growth of myelin – so as we practice jiu-jitsu day in and out we actually trigger a pattern of electrical signals through our neurons that ends up undoing the detrimental effects of depression.
Once we’re on our way to recovery we naturally get focused on self improvement. And that’s exactly what the white belt is about. A steep learning curve provides sufficient motivation for us to improve our memory – especially at trying times.
All of this is also very efficient as such excruciating physical activity is a great way to deal with conflicting emotions.
So in practicing bjj day in and out you’re actually providing your whole being a jolt it needs – one it especially needs if you feel yourself sliding into a gloomy state!