Can Jiu-Jitsu Help Depression? The Surprising Benefits of Martial Arts

Can Jiu-Jitsu help depression

Depression is an incredibly serious issue. About 9.5% of people in the US suffer from it each year, and worsening conditions all over the world only help exacerbate this issue.

But how can something like BJJ help with that? It's a martial art, after all; you can't tackle your brain into feeling happy.

Turns out though, there are a number of mental health-related benefits that BJJ can give you, most of which will allow you to better cope with depression, or even help mitigate it outright. Let's dive right in!

Physical Benefits

A man with strong muscles.

The physical movements of Jiu-Jitsu can also help increase the heart rate, which helps strengthen the cardiovascular system.

As you can probably already tell, BJJ is a very physically taxing sport. You can expect to feel beat up after most sessions, and it never really gets easier.

But this kind of physical activity is immensely helpful for mental health. Exercise releases healthy endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that are released during pleasurable activities. They help you achieve a greater sense of well-being, reduce your stress, and improve your mood!

They'll also help you keep healthy and fit. The martial art involves intense anaerobic exercises, allowing you to lose about 400 to 600 calories per session. It'll lower your cholesterol levels, and it'll just improve your health overall.

Now, of course, depression is a multi-faceted disorder that can't be solved by any one means. There are lots of depressed people who still actively take care of themselves and their bodies, and it doesn't always help them.

But in generalthough, good physical fitness has been known to help with symptoms of depression, reducing overall anxiety and improving cognitive well-being. In short: taking care of your body won't always make you happy, but it'll help quite a fair bit!

Mental Benefits

A relaxed woman.

BJJ practitioners often feel a sense of purpose and achievement due to BJJ. This makes perfect sense, considering that BJJ is an individual sport, so every win is truly your own.

This is perfect for anyone who may be struggling with the kinds of feelings of hopelessness or helplessness associated with depression.

Allowing someone to feel as if they have control over their lives, that they can truly implement positive change in who they are, will help boost self-esteem and pave the way for greater self-worth.

And if fixing your problems isn't exactly what you need on your mind at the moment, that's okay. BJJ is also a good way to set aside your problems for a while. If you need a breather and a morale boost from all the things that may be bumming you down, then this sport is perfect for that.

Social Benefits

Furthermore, the social aspect of BJJ can be an important factor when it comes to mental health.

The BJJ community is vibrant and huge. It has millions of practitioners worldwide, with hundreds of dojos and active websites on top of frequent competitions. It'll be very easy for you to find like-minded people who can share in your passion for the sport.

This social aspect is wonderful for mental health. Meeting new people with similar interests, then bonding with them over your shared passions, can help reduce the sense of isolation that many feel when they suffer from depression.

Human connection is a great way to feel more supported and less alone, and BJJ can offer that in spades. You and your fellow jujitsukas will roll together, toil together, and bond together, helping one another keep sane and creating lifelong memories that you can cherish forever.

Spiritual Benefits

Two people practicing yoga, which is often linked to spiritual health.

We don't just mean this in the religious sense. Many martial arts in general put priority on teaching their practitioners to channel their energy, cultivate a healthy mindset, internalize their goals, and build up the focus and discipline to achieve them.

As such, engaging in martial arts presents us with an opportunity to observe our mind-body connection and delve deeper into our consciousness.

Our bodies may not always feel strong enough to go through all the trials we're facing, but our mind is a powerful force that can help us push through.

This is what you can expect to hone in BJJ. Consistent and diligent practice will allow you to tap into higher levels of awareness over time, helping you find inner peace and enlightenment.

It isn't a foolproof way to solve depression, but many have already observed the myriad benefits that these kinds of practices can provide.


A balloon with a smiley face on it, showing happiness and contentment.

Going into martial arts is, for lack of a better word, an unconventional method of tackling depression. It's not like grappling someone into the ground will help give you a dopamine boost, after all (at least we hope not!).

But it still provides a wide range of benefits--physically, mentally, spiritually, among others. They will not solve your depression for you--that's something that you'll need dedicated medical and psychological care for--but at the very least, they will help you cope, little by little everyday.

Wondering how BJJ affects other aspects of the body, like testosterone? Don't worry, we've looked into that here!