If you are anything like me and you automatically associate juggling with clowns and the circus, then you must be giggling at the title of this post. No I have not thrown away a letter on the A to Z challenge and just picked any old word. I’m still doing my mental health theme. What does juggling have to do with mental health? Juggling therapy. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I giggled at first too, but the more I read about it, the more it actually made sense. Juggling therapy is advertized as a “fun” approach to improving mental, emotional and physical states. It “…works to balance both hemispheres of the brain (right brain & left brain) to improve motor-skill functions, reading, writing, creativity, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-motivation, focus on tasks, multi-tasking. It can help combat and prevent the development of Anxiety, Alzheimer’s, depression and a host of other mental and emotional diseases.” Ok, so maybe the advertizing goes a bit overboard, but there is truth behind it.
Let’s start with physical well-being part. This part is obvious. Juggling is a cardiovascular activity, so of course it’s good for your body. It has the benefits of regular exercise in that it raises your heart rate and gets the blood flowing, but it’s easier on your joints compared to various other sports and exercises. Muscles have memory. As you learn to juggle, your muscles get to know the space and timing required to catch whatever you are juggling. It also improves hand-eye coordination which is a transferable skill meaning you can apply it to other activities; baseball, golf, applying make-up and yes, even video games.
What about outside of the physical part? I can understand how it can teach you multitasking and how to break down bigger problems into smaller pieces, but what effect does it have on your mind? Juggling activates several different brain regions for one thing; attention, motion, vision. Some studies have shown that it promotes the growth of gray matter in the mid-temporal lobe. This is the same area that is involved in processing emotional memory and believe it or not, generating panic attacks. A study in the Journal of Biopsychosocial Medicine did a study on female patients with anxiety disorders. They were divided into a juggling group and a non-juggling group. Both groups received appropriate medication and psychotherapy for six months. During the last three months of therapy, only the juggling group was trained on how to juggle. After treatment, both groups showed reduced anxiety, but the juggling group showed greater improvements in anxiety, anger and depression. Interesting results.
I can see how it would work. The repetitiveness of it is kind of a form of meditation. I’d try it. Why not, if it might help? There would have to be some ground breaking studies with the same results to get me to pay for it though.
What do you think? Would you try juggling to improve your mental health?
Nakahara et al., 2007