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Patient Advocate: Roller skating builds mental resilience

I was attracted to roller skating for the ability of the sport to provide instantaneous joy. Roller skating provides a rush of adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine — hormones that bathe the brain in instantaneous bliss.

Beyond the momentary rush of hormones, the doctor in me knew that roller skating is doing much more to my brain, and the impact would be reflected in other aspects of my life.

Roller skating exercises and strengthens every muscle in our bodies, and in addition, exercises and strengthens our brains.

A very important part of our brain, the amygdala is found in a region of our brains called the temporal lobe, and is responsible, among other things, for coordinating our emotional response to our external environment, cataloging emotional perceptions, such as fear.

The fear that I experience dropping into a bowl, sends an image to my brain of “Oh shit, can I survive?”, my amygdala processes the information and responds with either fight, flight or freeze. Every time I choose to go into that bowl I choose to fight. I inhibit my fear, strengthening my amygdala and creating mental resilience.

The consensus definition of mental resilience is the ability to overcome mental stressors and return the mind to its pre-stress state. I expand on the definition and believe the post-stress state, is a new rewired mental state. One that is better adapted to new stressors.

Mental resilience is built by using tools such as roller skating. Every time we try new tricks and succeed, we strengthen our mental muscles, inhibiting fear and fostering mental resilience. Roller skating is just like that five-pound weight to the bicep. Roller skating has inadvertently induced mental resilience through the inhibition of fear.

This “inhibition of fear” can also translate to other parts of our lives. For example, knowing that you will survive that drop into the bowl, can relate to surviving that breakup, or taking a leap of faith in a new project. The amygdala has been retrained, so of speak, to perceive a threat and overcome it.

Next time you put on your skates, know you are working not only all your muscles, but you are also working and challenging your mental capacities, rewiring your mind to become the best version of you. Oh… and yes, you should wear a helmet at all times to protect that brain.

Dr. Sadi Jimenez is a naturopathic doctor who practices integrative medicine in Carlsbad. For a consultation, please visit her website here

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