The term ‘psychological well-being’ seems to be projected from every direction: on social media, in self-help books, and on television. Despite its constant presence, the concept of well-being remains rather vague for many people. Maintaining a healthy and balanced life requires supporting our well-being in various ways including exercising, having a healthy diet, quality sleep, managing stress, and maintaining social connections.
Well-being is the key to a healthy and balanced life and practising Muay Thai is one of the ways to improve all aspects of it.
What is well-being?
To ascertain whether Muay Thai can promote psychological well-being, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the concept. So, what is psychological well-being?
A theoretical framework for psychological well-being was introduced by Martin Seligman, who is the former President of the American Psychological Association and the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. This framework has had a significant impact on the field and has been supported by various studies.
Thus, having only one element, for example, positive emotions, is not enough for complete psychological well-being. However, possessing all five elements of the PERMA is considered a key feature of psychological well-being.
Six ways Muay Thai positively impacts well-being
Researchers as well as philosophers have been interested in the impact of martial arts on mental health. In fact, the social stigma of martial arts is a negative one. We can often face the opinion that people engaged in Muay Thai are very tough and always willing to fight.
When in reality, Muay Thai has been reported to have an extremely positive effect on the emotions and happiness of both professional fighters and people who practise it for fitness.
So, let’s have a look at how beneficial Muay Thai can be for your positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.
1Muay Thai promotes positive emotions
To achieve overall psychological well-being, positive emotions are crucial. Participating in Muay Thai training can improve psychological well-being by generating positive emotions. Muay Thai, also known as the art of eight limbs, is a martial art from Thailand that uses punches, kicks, elbow strikes, knee strikes, and clinch work. Unlike boxing and kickboxing, which use fewer limbs, Muay Thai offers a wider range of techniques.
According to recent research from scholarly sources in education and sociology, practising Muay Thai has been found to contribute to positive emotions. Studies have shown that Muay Thai training can improve self-esteem and emotional regulation in young athletes, as well as elicit pleasurable excitement in female athletes during training and competition.
Here is how one of the study participants describes Muay Thai’s impact on her emotional state:
Thus, not only is Muay Thai an effective means of eliciting positive emotions, but it also can be a healthy way of relieving mental pain and sorrow. Agree that it is much healthier to hit the gym rather than hit the bar 🙂
2Muay Thai is an effective outlet for emotional expression
Most societal norms praise the expression of positive emotions and happiness. However, when it comes to the flip side of our emotional range, we are not allowed to give life to our anger, sorrow, or aggression.
But the thing is that we need to show all our emotional states and the suppression of emotions can lead to them finding an expression in our bodies. This means the development of diseases. The study found that individuals with a higher tendency to suppress their emotions had a 35% higher risk of mortality.
It seems like there couldn’t be a better way of letting things out than punching and kicking a bag and Muay Thai is an ace for these purposes.
A study conducted by Ustun and Tasgin investigated the relationship between Muay Thai experience and anger in university students in Turkey. The study found that people with 9 or more years of Muay Thai experience had notably lower levels of suppressed anger compared to those with only 1-2, 3-4, and 5-6 years of Muay Thai experience.
Research shows that Muay Thai training can reduce anger and improve anger control, contradicting beliefs that martial arts training promotes violence and mental instability. In addition, Muay Thai training has been found to produce positive emotions such as pleasure, improved self-esteem and emotional regulation, and increased confidence and self-knowledge. These findings provide evidence that Muay Thai training can contribute to overall psychological well-being.
3Muay Thai enhances engagement and flow experience
Flow experience, or feeling engaged and absorbed in an activity, is essential for overall psychological well-being. Engaged individuals often report feeling more energised, motivated, and satisfied with their lives. Studies from scholarly sources suggest that Muay Thai training can enhance the flow experience.
In the course of the study, 55 participants of Muay Thai at Desert Combat Gym in Phoenix, Arizona were interviewed. It was found that many of them experienced flow states while training and competing. One of the participants expressed:
Thus, by practising Muay Thai, you can potentially experience the benefits of flow experience and bring more focus into your work and other everyday tasks.
4Muay Thai promotes social connections and communicative skills
Positive social relationships are an important part of the PERMA framework for psychological well-being.
Multiple studies suggest that social relationships play an important role in contributing to life satisfaction. Social support from friends and rehabilitation staff have been found to contribute to life satisfaction in adults with mental illness in Hong Kong.
Fun fact from Healthypedia
In the United Kingdom, an increase in social interaction with friends and relatives was estimated to be worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of contributing to life satisfaction.
Muay Thai training can contribute to overall psychological well-being by enhancing social relationships, according to research from scholarly sources. Despite its violent reputation, Muay Thai training can create a community of like-minded individuals with common goals.
In the course of the study, one Muay Thai instructor acknowledged that ‘when you train hard you build friendships that are different than any others.’
A study by dos Santos and Canzonieri found that a patient diagnosed with multiple sclerosis who engaged in Muay Thai training for six months showed improved social skills, nonverbal intelligence, visual memory, and selective attention. This suggests that Muay Thai training can contribute to relationships and promote positive interactions with others, which is important for overall psychological well-being according to existing research.
5Muay Thai helps to maintain the meaning and purpose of life
Meaning or purpose in life is important for human well-being and motivation. Research shows that identifying a purpose in life is associated with greater life satisfaction in different age groups.
Some studies suggest that Muay Thai training can contribute to meaning or purpose in life, as participants reported constant personal growth and self-expression. Existing research supports the idea that Muay Thai training can contribute to this important aspect of psychological well-being.
6Muay Thai helps to achieve fitness and health goals providing a feeling of accomplishment
Accomplishment is important for psychological well-being and Muay Thai training has been proven to contribute to this element.
Muay Thai can be an effective way to achieve health and fitness goals, this will provide feelings of self-worth and accomplishment.
Two studies found that Muay Thai training can lead to increased physical fitness and help achieve health goals. One study showed that 13 weeks of training improved cardiorespiratory fitness in women, while another study found that 16 weeks of training decreased body fat mass and increased total muscle mass in overweight adolescents.
Sum it up
Taking care of our psychological health is just as important as our physical health. That’s where Muay Thai comes in – a martial art that not only helps you achieve your fitness goals but also provides a sense of fulfilment and accomplishment. By engaging in Muay Thai training, you can experience positive emotions, feel more engaged and absorbed, build meaningful connections with others, find a greater purpose in life, and achieve your fitness goals. With all these benefits combined, Muay Thai can help you lead a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life. So why not give it a try and see for yourself?
Not enough? Here are some more from our colleagues
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by Martin E. P. Seligman is a must-read for anyone interested in understanding the concept of well-being and how to achieve it. Seligman, a renowned psychologist and former President of the American Psychological Association, introduces the PERMA model of well-being, which consists of five essential elements: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishment.
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