For a long time depression was treated just as a sad phase in someone’s life and didn’t have the proper attention it should. Nowadays, things have finally changed and we are starting to understand the seriousness that this condition requires in order to be treated and to give some quality of life to those who suffer from it.
Considered as the disease of the century, depression affects over 350 million people around the world. The conditions vary in intensity and duration and can be classified into three different degrees: mild, moderate and severe. The causes can be numerous, ranging from traumatic events in childhood, physical and psychological stress or even by the consumption of some medications.
The main neurotransmitters involved in the condition are serotonin and norepinephrine, which becomes highly dysregulated and undergoes chemical reactions that trigger negative thoughts and difficulties experimenting pleasure in people with depression’s brain.
The reasons that lead to biochemical dysfunction in the brain are not fully understood yet. Genetic and environmental causes or even traumatic events may trigger the reaction and the effects go beyond tiredness and unwillingness to perform small everyday tasks. Slow thinking or agitation, difficulty to concentrate, insomnia or excessive sleep, sudden changes in weight, physical pain, humor changes and repeated infections are also part of the symptoms.
“Is there any cure for it?”, you may be asking yourself. Yes, it does. Physiologic counseling is essential to any degree, but some require the use of medication and others don’t. For all cases, we give you good news: exercises help a lot!
Jiu-Jitsu against depression
We all already know the benefits that jiu-jitsu brings to the body, but the sport can be even a greater ally when we talk about the mind. The practice causes the release of serotonin, a hormone responsible for (good) mood, instantly increasing the levels of pleasure and happiness.
Once a person manages to overcome anxiety enough to show up to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class they are initially jolted by the threat of imminent danger. For someone who is not used to martial arts, the first class can be quite traumatic as the degree of 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, the practice of Jiu-Jitsu causes the release of many hormones and bursts oxytocin, beta-endorphin, norepinephrine and even serotonin into your body. All of this facilitates the formation of bonds and in addition helps to self-medicate the brain.
Through the nature of jiu-jitsu, the mental chess game goes against our instincts and forces us to manage ourselves in a variety of new 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 are essentially changing how our brain is wired on a deep level.
Learning something increases neural activity that actually translates to the growth of myelin – so as we practice jiu-jitsu day in and out we are actually triggering a pattern of electrical signals through our neurons that ends up undoing the detrimental effects of depression.
Once we are 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 very efficient as such excruciating physical activity is a great way to deal with conflicting emotions.
Step by step
When someone with depression comes to the mats, they are not just fighting their opponent. They are fighting every negative thought, every heavy feeling, every physical and mental ache that is constantly trying to beat them down. For those people, jiu-jitsu isn’t just therapy, it’s a trophy!
It is important to understand that depression gives people some hard days, so just be there to help them if you notice they need it. If you are handling this condition and are trying to improve your physical and mental health, remember: YOU CAN COUNT WITH GRACIE HUMAITA SYDNEY.
See you on the mats,
Gracie Humaita Sydney.
by Fernanda Monteiro.