Last week we focused on how training to box was good for the body. This week, let’s talk about how it improves the mind. Specifically, we’re going to talk about mindfulness: what is it, why it’s important, and how boxing training can help you get it.
If you’ve been paying attention to health and wellness news over the past few years, mindfulness has become an incredibly common recommendation. This focus on mindfulness comes in response to studies showing that living in a world of over-stimulation and constant distraction is not good for our mental health. Perpetual sensory overload affects our dopamine receptors, prevents us from properly focusing, and contributes to mood disorders like anxiety and depression. The act of seeking mindfulness helps to calm, center, and de-stress the brain. When successfully practiced, the pay off is significant. Psychologists say achieving mindfulness can help us better regulate our emotions and open ourselves up to long-term happiness.
The Road to Mindfulness
Physical fitness training has long proven to be a wonderful tool for achieving mindfulness. Working out requires you to focus on what you’re doing right now. Seeing the positive results can create a major sense of self-accomplishment. Both of which help center you on the moment.
Training for boxing and other combat sports take it a step further. Here are six ways that putting on your gloves can propel you into a deep state of zen:
- It Boosts Endorphin Production — Have you ever noticed that, after a half hour or so on the aerobics equipment at the gym, you start to feel pretty good about yourself and the world? That’s because the body releases endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and nor-epinephrine when you exercise. All of these neurotransmitters are crucial to helping regulate your mood and help give you a stronger sense of well-being. The aerobic exercise creates what’s known as a “runner’s high.”
- It Helps You Release Aggression — Feeling angry, frustrated, or stressed-out? While taking it out on your heavy bag won’t erase these feelings, being forced to focus on an unrelated task will help diminish them. The intense focus, combined with the energy release and dopamine dump that occurs when you’re boxing, will help you cope with feelings of anger and aggression. Boxing is one of the healthiest ways to manage stress and take a breather from your regular state of mind.
- It Teaches You About Yourself — A primary facet of mindfulness is learning about the self. Understanding our own personal triggers, personal limitations, and necessary boundaries is helpful in developing the proper tools to deal with day-to-day stressors. Boxing and other combat sports teach you about yourself by helping you better understand your struggles. Working with a good, objective coach can help you tap into some of your own personal roadblocks and how to overcome them.
- It Boosts Your Self-Esteem — When you walk away from any form of exercise, you’ll find that you feel a sense of pride and self-accomplishment, especially if it’s something that’s particularly challenging or out of your regular wheelhouse. Working out helps you prove to yourself again and again that you can endure physical challenges and overcome obstacles, which equals a major self-esteem boost. Being a part of a boxing club also provides you with the social interaction and the feeling of being a part of a community, which contributes to positive feelings of self-worth.
- It Provides “Moving Meditation” — Moving meditation is the art of using rhythmic, physical movements to quiet and center the mind—i.e., to slip into a deep state of mindfulness. Boxing has been touted as one of the best kinds of mindful meditations around. It demands 100 percent attention. In other words, it sucks you out of the world around you and into a state of pure focus, helping to quell the everyday stressors that exist outside the gym. You come out of your class or training session with a quiet, refocused mind.
- It Helps You Concentrate — Like your combinations and your footwork, your concentration will improve with practice. When you spend an hour or so a few times a week deeply focused on a specific task—in this case, your boxing goals—you’ll start to notice your concentration muscles strengthening. Boxing helps you focus and compartmentalize so you can give your all to whatever’s in front of you.
Keep Your Eyes on the Prize: Psychological Fitness
If you’re looking to kick-start your boxing efforts, the first thing you need to do is find the right coach. Find someone who believes in the power of boxing for mental health, and make your goals clear. When you dive into the sport with the appropriate support system, you’ll be able to soak up all of these amazing benefits, and more, from the very first time you put on a pair of boxing gloves.