Is CrossFit a cure for anxiety and depression?

Is CrossFit a cure for anxiety and depression?

I have dozens of conversations daily with athletes that suffer from anxiety and or depression.  Now I don’t pretend to be an expert in psychological disorders, but my life experience has lead me to come to understand some basics as it pertains to the inner workings of our minds. 

As humans, we have an incredible ability to forecast, to calculate the likelihood of possible outcomes, and potentially mitigate disasters.  This ability is why us, and not another species runs our planet.  Foresight is hard-wired into our system and has aided in our survival.  While we have an incredible ability to see into the future, we also possess a tremendous memory that keeps us from repeating mistakes.  Anxiety and depression are both the by-products of our enhance cognitive ability.  Anxiety is generally explained as thinking ahead and creating constant what-if scenarios.  Depression is linked to forever thinking back on mistakes and how things could have been different.  If our minds are always looking back or calculating potential outcomes into the future then how do we live in the now?

As athletes and humans, the ability to be in the moment and have a still mind is one of the greatest feats you can accomplish.  Being in the “now” is something that humanity has always longed for.  Mediation is generally all about achieving a still mind, one can argue that prayer is a chance to be in the now.  The desire to free ourselves from constant reflection and forward thinking is also why so many us turn to drugs and alcohol to silence those pesky voices inside our heads.  Drugs and alcohol offer a reprieve from a wandering mind and allows us to be present.  Think about all the great conversations you had while under the influence, how time just flew by, because you were simply able to stay in the moment.  Of course, drugs and alcohol and not a healthy way to combat anxiety and depression.  I offer another alternative – CrossFit.

If you’ve ever done CrossFit as it is intended your mind is 100% involved into completing the task.  This level of involvement ensures that you are in the now, it is a healthy and pure way to recalibrate our minds inner workings, and allow us to be mindful. 

 There is nothing that I enjoy more than being so engrossed into my workout that I have no clue what music is playing, what others are doing, and what time it is.  My mind is focused solely on getting through the next rep.  Before a workout starts, we are all nervous, our minds are racing ahead creating what if scenarios, dreading the potential pain ahead. Once the coach says go, anxiety levels drop within the first minute to be replace by a healthy dose of endorphins. 

 Every year the advancements in sport and medicine elucidate our understanding of how important a healthy mind is to the body and how a healthy body is of importance to the mind.  If you suffer from anxiety or depression, come and try a workout. There’s a great chance that you’ll walk out feeling better than before you came in.

Jay Cain