Muay Thai Techniques to Battle Depression
You know the feeling of failure. If you have ever taken a risk, you have faced failure head on. But it’s not failure that eats us alive, it’s the nagging thoughts about the event in our head. It is the fear of it happening again. Now imagine this feeling always hanging around. When your life seems to be in harmony, when there seems to be no risk, but you still feel anxiety and self-doubt when it comes to going outside of your comfort zone, even interacting with others.
Rachel Saurman, previously featured on the Muay Thai Athlete spotlight has shined a light on how important Muay Thai has become in her fight with herself. With depression. In this article, Rachel is the author. Here are the three ways Muay Thai has enabled her to live with this condition. To have more good days then bad.
Goal Setting and Accountability
Depression can lock you into a continuous loop of self-doubt and apathy. An example would be, “I am not good at anything so I don’t want to do anything. There is no point in me even trying, and since I am not trying then everyone thinks I am weak, and since everyone already thinks I am weak then there is no point in trying”.
It is an easy loop to fall into, and it is very difficult to get out. If you try focusing on large, ambiguous goals, that often can make the loop worse. An example of that might be that you set one of your goals to be a great Muay Thai athlete. However, if you have a bad day and maybe struggle on some basic combos, you might start to think to yourself, “How can I be a great Muay Thai athlete if I can’t even do this simple combination”. The loop continues when you start to have thoughts like, “Everyone else must think badly of me if I can’t do something so simple, would be the point be of me even trying to become a great Muay Thai athlete”. If you focus on small goals that are achievable in shorter time frames, it is easier to pull out of this vicious cycle.
Muay Thai actually works extremely well for this. There are so many combos we can practice, and so many goals we can set for ourselves within this sport. Before class try sitting down and thinking about what you want to work on that day, even just one thing. Maybe you want to throw the jab with more speed, simultaneously making sure it stays up when it returns to your face. Maybe in sparring you want to see if you can work on the timing of your teep. Lock into those small goals for each day, or each training session. Then when you accomplish those goals you can start to say to yourself, “I did really well today on that combo, if I keep practicing that then I can work on a more complicated combination soon, and I will be closer to my ultimate goal of becoming a great Muay Thai athlete”. It is definitely great to dream big, but the small goals are what are going to get you there, and get you out of the house and into the gym.
Entering the Flow State
Sometimes your mind needs a reset. You might be stuck in the depression thought loop explained above, or maybe you have just had a couple days of apathy or anxiety. Just like in a video game, if you aren’t playing a particular section very well, you just need to reload and start over. One way you can do that with your mind is by accessing a state of flow. The flow state is achieved when you are doing something, and your mind is so focused on that task that you literally forget everything else around you. Citing – How to Access Flow www.PsychologyToday.com.
You just start to “flow“. You can jump into this with Muay Thai by working on something called Holland (or Dutch) drills. This is a drill where one partner will throw a simple combo at another partner who covers up defensively. Then the roles reverse, and you continue like this back and forth. Find a partner around your same skill level, or one that can adjust to your speed. Take a deep breath and just try to think about that combination. Don’t think about how you are doing, or whether or not you are fast. Just focus on the combo itself, on the mechanics. Your partner should be able to continue the drill at an efficient pace, so there is no lag time between each of your combinations. If you do this for several minutes without stopping, you are certain to be immersed into the flow state. Without time wasted in between the repetitions, it is harder for your mind to wander into thoughts that may over-analyze the drill, and potentially bring on negative self-talk.
Community and Support
With all these thoughts of self-doubt and apathy, one of the biggest struggles is getting yourself up and out of the house. It becomes difficult to motivate yourself to do anything because you feel you aren’t worth the effort. The beautiful thing about training in Muay Thai is that it automatically makes you a member of a larger community.
When you train at a corporate style fitness gym, you have no one else but yourself to hold you accountable. In Muay Thai, you have training partners that are counting on you to be there. Your presence not only helps in your own personal growth, but in the growth of your training partners. Muay Thai is something that can’t be perfected without training with other people. In addition to your training partners you also have a coach or instructor. That person is dedicating their time to making you better in the sport, and focus becomes an easier task when you want to make that person proud. A teacher’s ultimate reward is to see their students succeed. By focusing on the needs of others, those that struggle with depression can often motivate themselves to get up, get to the gym, and train.
Fighting depression is often a lifetime battle. There are always going to be highs and lows. It is important to recognize how to get through those low points with the help of your doctor, support from family and friends, and by locking onto small goals that help you achieve larger dreams. Exercise is something that is beneficial for the mind as well as the body. Muay Thai cannot only provide you with a great workout, but a sense of self-confidence from the practice of martial arts, where setting a goal can be executed and achieved. You can find support in your gym, often people who train together will help to keep each other focused and on target. Never be ashamed to ask for help. Depression is just another opponent that can be knocked out, and Muay Thai can give you the skills to do it.
Rachel Saurman, a fighter from Ohio found her love in Muay Thai because of its intensity and focus on technical movement. What she didn’t plan for is the way it changed her life around. Rachel plans to help others realize their true potential, to continue a fight against the voice in your head.
Paul Banasiak is a Muay Thai fighter/addict, 6x champion, trainer, and fitness professional. After leaving medical school without looking back, he decided to fully follow his passion of helping others become the best version of themselves, creating MuayThaiAthlete.com. A website for those who are already passionate individuals who want to take their life&training to the next level.
Today we begin forging our bodies and
strengthening our minds.
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