Before I start this, I just want to make it super clear that I am NOT a doctor. So I have 0 expertise in the area of mental health, I’m also not a fitness expert. What I can talk about is how fitness, and especially boxing, have gone hand in hand with a massive improvement to my mental health and state of mind. It’s personal experience.
As you’ll know if you’ve read this blog (or if you know me, because I talk about it all the time), I’ve been a long time sufferer of depression. I recently had the worst bout of depression I’ve ever had, but now I’m on my way to feeling better than I ever have before. There are a lot of things that contribute towards this, I’ve been on antidepressants for nearly 3 years now, I’ve recently been going to counselling and I’ve also stopped drinking (temporarily at least).
But there’s one thing I’ve started that has had a massive impact on me. Both because I love it, but also because it’s genuinely good at clearing your mind, or it has been for me at least.
About 6 months ago, I’d never hit a punch bag before. It was something I’d always thought I’d enjoy but I’d just never had access to one. Then, when I joined my gym, I discovered there was a separate room upstairs with boxing kit in and it had TWO PUNCH BAGS. I was so excited. It took me a few months of going the gym to build my confidence up enough to go up to the room and try it. But one Saturday I got up early and went to give it a go. I was hooked instantly. I couldn’t throw a punch to save my life and I was knackered after 10 minutes but it was as fun as I’d hoped it would be and it lifted my mood so much.
A couple of months ago, I was at an all time low. I had to take time off work, I was struggling to get out of bed and I just couldn’t see a way out. After I’d been off work a couple of weeks, I forced myself to start going the gym in the middle of the day when I knew it would be quiet. I wouldn’t feel as judged if I just couldn’t get through stuff when the gym was empty. For a few weeks I didn’t box, my brother was coming with me to get me out of the house and it was a massive help. One day I woke up and I decided I’d just go and give it a go as I knew it had lifted my mood before. After that I started boxing at least twice a week, it was awesome.
It will sound macho to say this, but just look at me, macho is not the intended adjective. But, punching the bag is so good for clearing your mind. The more I’ve done it and the fitter I’ve got the more at peace I’ve felt when I leave the gym. I’ve started referring to it as Demon bashing, because that’s how it feels for me. I go in there, put some headphones on, play some music and think about anything and everything while I throw punches. While I’m doing it, I can get really hyped up and aggressive in my own head. Then after about an hour when I’ve ran out of steam and I’m maybe a bit delirious. There’s a feeling of calm that I don’t get from anything else and I always feel good when I leave.
I love lifting weights in the gym and I go with my brother which makes it a social experience and these things definitely help too. Fitness in general is a real positive to your mental health. But that room in the gym has become my favourite place over the last few months. It’s often empty when I go which means I get some time to myself to work out and work through things in my mind. I can go in with a certain feeling about something thats been going on in my life and leave feeling completely different.
Everybody will have their own ways of dealing with their mental health, and as I say I’m certainly no expert, but hitting that punch bag for the first time has given me something that helps me so much.
And that’s the end of my love letter to boxing…