Improve mental health with martial arts
May 24, 2023
One of the simplest and most effective means of preserving mental acuity is consistent engagement. Like anything else it grows stronger and more durable the more frequently you use it. And that’s why the martial arts can be of great benefit on the subject of mental health improvement and preservation. And while this is obviously useful for anyone of any age, it can be particularly valuable to the elderly and those suffering or experiencing certain types of conditions like dementia.
Oftentimes when people think of improving mental health they simply think of things like a crossword puzzle, and while that’s certainly ok for whittling away some time on a rainy day or in the morning over coffee, it doesn’t offer the fullest spectrum of help. That’s because engaging the mind alone is of course beneficial and good, but when it’s done in conjunction with other actions or activities it can more fully stimulate the mind and compel an even greater benefit to mental health. That’s because a person’s body is naturally interconnected, and things done for the body can cause reactions in the mind, and so on. As they say, taking part in regular exercise can cause a release of certain chemicals in the mind which reduce stress, bring joy and so on.
So in order to gain the greatest benefit in terms of improvements to mental health, we want to engage ourselves more fully in different activities.
Martial arts are a perfect vehicle for this because they necessarily incorporate mind, body, and spirit, that is they draw upon a person’s commitment, their spirit and drive, as well as their physical conditioning, and ultimately the engagement of the mind governing it all.
Now the way it works, in summary, is that when the mind is tasked toward certain ends, it naturally develops pathways of communication between all the involved parts of the whole, pathways of communication from the body to the mind, from the different parts of the body and so on. So in essence what is happening is that the mind needs to create these pathways, it builds and creates these pathways, thus enhancing productivity and efficiency.
In contrast, like a muscle, when it isn’t used, the mind atrophies, it becomes lax, and weak.
So in order to keep the mind strong, and to keep mental acuity quick and sharp, it needs tasks, it needs a job to do. And the more demanding the job, the more efficient and stronger it will become.
Naturally this is subject to what the body can do in conjunction with it. For instance, elderly people obviously cannot perform physically as well as younger people. But the point is that it is still performing, and it still demands pathways and connections created in order to coordinate between the mind and body.
So the lesson still applies, and what we find is that through consistent and regular or routine practice the mind is becoming more efficient and effective.
What is more, when these classes of martial arts are conducted in the company of others there is a community created. And when people train together, they learn more aptly and efficiently.
So what is essentially happening is we are doubling up on the benefits of mental health when we’re talking about martial arts, and training in a class-like environment with others.
People learn to depend on and help each other, they learn to give their best in friendly competition, they learn from each other’s mistakes, from their own, and from the ways in which people overcome the challenges presented to them.
And it is uplifting, it’s encouraging, and it’s great for morale and well being.
So when this is combined with the already discussed benefit of how the mind works in response to the tasks, this provides an amazing benefit to mental health, improvement and enhancement.
This then represents a bounty of well being for elderly people or others who are struggling with mental health issues.
It’s been proven to make a pronounced difference in the way people feel not only about the world around them, but themselves, and their ability to function properly and well.
There’s few other activities quite like the martial arts for mental well being, and this is doubly true when you add in the spiritual aspect.
And what we mean by spiritual in this respect is the aspect of thinking about how we feel, allowing ourselves to open up to new and exciting prospects, and to help us change our entire outlook on life. This happens all the time with people, who for various reasons come to the martial arts for help and inspiration. At first they come for a solution to a problem, but when they discover that problem being solved, they discover they’re becoming a new person, with new ideas and new possibilities.
It gives them new hope for a brighter future.
And it can happen for anyone who is willing to take that leap and enroll in the martial arts. Because they can definitely help with mental health, stability, and improvement.
Article reposted with permission from Go2Karate.com.