Exercise, Socialization & Low Mood
Every time I train with my local roller derby team they moan about how much my pointy shoulders hurt when I hit, (this is a good thing in derby believe me). But I don’t only hurt my teamies when I play derby, I give my low mood a real hit too.
Derby is a fast paced, full contact, high energy sport. But derby teams are also like a giant family. Loving, social, accepting, and slightly dysfunctional. And because derby incorporates all these aspects, it provides me with many things I need to keep my mood on an even keel.
- Goal Setting
To name just a few!
When you join a derby team they have a skill level for every player. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never put skates on before, or were an artistic skater as a child, (I’m talking to you Shell-Fire, damn you and your pretty moves!). There is a place for you.
It also doesn’t matter if you’re straight, gay, trans, or anywhere in between. There’s room for you too. It doesn’t even matter if you’re scared of being hit, hurt, or would just like to officiate. There. Is. Space. For. You! This is something not many sports can claim.
I love turning up to training and seeing people progress from strength to strength. Not just in their skating ability, but in their confidence too. I love the connection I feel with those I train with on a regular basis, (and I don’t just mean when I’m hitting them). And I love doing things I never would have believed possible just weeks previous.
Derby boosts not just my mood, but my self esteem, and self confidence too.
Having to turn up for training 3 times a week makes me accountable, and means I’m getting at least 3 exercise sessions no matter what else my week throws at me. And if I’m being brutally honest this is 3 more sessions than I got for a large chunk of my life. Exercise has never been my friend. It’s something I forced myself to do because it was healthy, and I liked the idea of being fit. But I never loved it.
I love derby. Is it hard dragging my butt out the door some days? Yes. Of course it is! But once I’m there I’m not thinking about how much exercise I’m doing (my body reminds me of that the next day), I’m thinking about how much fun I’m having! And this is the key with exercise. Finding something you love so much it doesn’t seem like a chore. It’s not something you have to do, it’s something you crave!
Because exercise is vital for our mental health.
It doesn’t just release happy hormones into your brain. Exercise also diminishes your stress hormones, makes you more energetic, helps you sleep better and brightens your mood. This is because your body and mind are connected, and over time exercise causes your brain to re-wire itself in a more positive way. Pretty amazing right!
The crazy busy lives that many people live, lead to an increase in stress. And stress in turn causes adrenaline to flood our bodies. Which is great in the short term as it gives us an energy boost. But adrenaline also keeps us wired, and can cause things like strokes and high blood pressure. Exercise helps us metabolize these stress hormones and restores our bodies and minds to a more relaxed state. See why derby is so great for my mood?
Derby also provides the perfect partner to exercise- socialization. Many people don’t realise what a massive impact a simple smile or chat can have on their emotions, but it is one of the most important things we can do for our mood. Human beings are hard wired for connection. It’s an intrinsic part of our makeup!
But when we’re feeling sad or down it’s so easy to closet ourselves away and hide from the world. Unfortunately this means we give ourselves all the time and space we need to focus on our problems and our negative thoughts, and usually means we’re sitting on our butts too! I get it, I love my quiet time. And I’m a bit of an introvert. And I’m shy! But it is actually impossible for your brain to function well without social contact, so get out the door!
Relationships with our family and friends provide us with love and support and help boost our self-worth and sense of belonging. They are so important! Remember how I said derby was like a giant family? If I don’t turn up I get messages asking if I’m ok. If I do turn up and I’m just not feeling it, you can guarantee someone will notice and I’ll get a hug, or a chat, or even a simple smile. They all help. The very act of being there in a group helps. Even after a crappy day. Or a crappy week.
If you know you struggle with low mood then I encourage you to find yourself a derby family. Derby will keep you connected, energised, and loving life. It will give you a reason to show up, learn, stretch your boundaries and discover how amazing your mind and body really are.
Of course, derby is not for everyone! But there are other fantastic sports groups out there with your name on them! Think outside the square. Did you know you can go to circus school? Acrobatics? Bar juggling courses? What about slack lining, or hula hooping or become part of a flash mob. There are so many options out there! Any of these will give you exercise, socialization, new skills, and most importantly, a mood boost.
But I’m going to stick with derby, because I love my crazy, eclectic, amazing derby family.
If you struggle with low mood, or want to know more about how exercise and socializing (among many other things) can impact our emotions, check out my new mental health book on Amazon xx
Want to know more about derby? Head to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association website for everything you need to know and to find your closest team, or come play with me and my team S2D2!