Athletes and mental Health – Stay in Sports!

The best treatment for depression, and managing low winter states and high summer moods, is physical activity. Exercise also functions like a healthy addictive substance in your brain, and helps you stay away from unhealthy addictions.
Physical activity is a great way to manage mental activity, to stabilize energy, and thus a way to control creativity from going too crazy.

Sports, especially individual training where you have full responsibility for your own performance and actions, teaches you discipline, determination and limits, which helps you stay away from other addictive behaviours and substance abuse, which correlate with mental struggles. Poor mental health often comess hand in hand with misuse of alcohol and/or sex/drugs. Exercise naturally releases similar substances in your brain, which means that exercise is a healthy drug. A healthy addiction.

Yet the system in Finland do not support sports or try to motivate to physical activity, even though we consume more addictive substances, known as depression medication and alcohol, than ever before. 

Around half a million finnish people eat depression medication, and there are only six million of us. So depression is a huge drug business, and a huge problem that we only make worse by ignoring. And not only that, we also drink 5 times more alcohol than we did 50 years ago.

Officials and often teachers as well, have little to no understanding for how dangerous it is to force young people to stop training. So little understanding for how effective sports is at keeping you away from mental issues and substance abuse. So little understanding, even though depression is very common among young students, yet the system is pushing for better, faster, higher grades while taking away the cures and solutions to be mentally healthy.

I have frequently been faced with the ultimatum:

Sports or Education. I have frequently had to push my studies forward because I’m not allowed to miss one single day of University for representing my own country in running. I have frequently thought about quitting because of studies. Because of lack of support from the system.

And I am a top student. My grades have been extremely high for the past 15 years. I graduated Highschool as a Laudatur student, which only the top 1-5% students do. And at University I have an average of 4/5.

So to me, it was never about struggling to get through at all. In fact, the more I do, the more effective I am. When I do a lot of good training I do a lot of good studying and working. Success in sports goes hand in hand with success in other areas in life as well.

Personally, my only deep low-period happened when I had a bleeding in my spinal chord and could not do any sports. I lost all my routines, my motivation and my reason to get up from bed every morning. I lost my success in studies, my interest for a large network of friends and my drivenness. I lost my athlete self, and was forced to find my pure inner self.

I learned that sports can’t take first place in your heart, that Love is more important, that spirituality and serving God, Faith, Family and Friends are in the end more important than sports. And this is what gives sports balance. This is what keeps you from overtraining, keeps you away from physical and mental burn out.
Athletes seem to cope well mentally, even though we are known to often have sensitive nervous systems and go into High competitive summer-times of amazing performance, and go a bit lower in winter times. Yet, we seem to cope, not only in sports but many other areas as well.

Personally, I believe that challenging, creative and motivating, physical, spiritual and mental activity is the solution to maintaining mental health, not just taking drugs, that are found to be dangerous and often ineffective.

 If we want to decrease mental illness we have to start supporting mental health. If we want less depressive activity, we have to support physical activity. And we have to stop diagnosing differences in moods, thoughts and behaviour as an illness to instantly be treated with drugs. We have to ask who this neutral and normal, perfect straight line student human, with no mood-fluctuations and no physical activity, is?

Who is this person with constant great mental health, even though there is no balance, no time for sports, creativity or friends, only study study study?

Who is this person?

I’m afraid that this person doesn’t even exist. I’m afraid that we are driving ourselves insane, mentally ill, in the process of chasing perfect neutral slave-like students and academic skill.



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