Box Your Way to Health

Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.

“If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you…”

Everyone knows that exercise in all forms opens the doorway to your heart and mind. Boxing, in particular, has always been fascinating to me. When I was a little girl, my Papa Harry fought with the great Billy Kahn in Pittsburgh and I was smitten.

Little did I know then that my daughter would - after a stint in corporate America - put that Stanford bachelor’s degree and UCLA MBA into business action and follow her passion. Just last month, she opened BoxUnion, a reinvention of boxing for work-out enthusiasts of all stripes.

Being the mini-scholar that I am, I decided to research the benefits of boxing and how 12 rounds in the ring - or 12 Steps as we call it in the behavioral health care field - may relate to total mind and body health and fitness.

From a physical point of view, boxing can:

  1. Improve Self Image - makes you feel empowered.
  2. Initiate Courageous Action - the more you train the better your skills get and the better you want to be thus your determination improves.
  3. Release Anger and Other Emotions - it helps you balance mind, body and soul.
  4. Relieve Stress - studies find that people who attend boxing classes regularly are happy and cheerful as it reduces stress and anxiety. 
  5. Challenge You to Work Hard – it’s no small feat to take up gloves and spar with a bag. You’re on your feet, sweat pouring, moving your whole body - the physical, mental and spiritual working in unison.

Now let's look at boxing as a metaphor for how you live life:

Round 1 - What will you fight for? What is your purpose? What is your passion? Write down what you believe in. And make a list of your values - integrity, trust, success, etc.

Round 2 - Pick your shots. A boxer doesn't waste his energy with random punches. Think about what does a great day look like for you? In a perfect world who do you want to be? Work with someone so you can break that down into small goals so you can achieve the bigger dreams. For instance, if you want to go back to school, begin with researching nearby colleges and universities, evaluate programs, costs and commitments and develop a plan of action.

Round 3 - Know your opponent. As you step into the ring i.e. start a path of recovery from mind-altering substances, chronic pain, mental health issues or process disorders, you must come face-to-face with your opponent, learn about them and develop strategies and rituals that take you on a different path. In round 3, you are stepping into the ‘ring of life’ and never forget that in doing so there is a power greater than yourself.

Round 4 - Find your balance. A boxer can't box without finding balance. Starting the day with a grateful list, mindful meditation, yoga or just finding time to relax and find your center is important. Letting go is a knockout.

Round 5 - Trust your guard (i.e. BOUNDARIES). A boxer never forgets to keep her/his guard up to protect themselves from getting hit. As such, you must learn that you are okay and setting healthy boundaries is okay. So, when life throws some punches and someone is trying to take you down, remember you are worthy and deserving of respect.

Round 6 - Find your fighting style. In treatment, one can discover who they are, what their values are and that they are worthy of wholehearted living. You learn to eat healthy, train your mind, body and soul. Many of our challenges take place because we are not living who we want to be. Take the time to find you.

Round 7 - Defenses. In letting down your defenses and exploring who you are and what you want to do and making amends, your punch becomes cleaner, your words and actions more authentic and you become stronger. All that work you have done in the ring with your trainer has paid off.

Round 8 - Stop the trash talk. Before going into the ring, boxers often trash talk in their minds and it stops them from winning. When you hear negative voices in your head, ask what are you saying about yourself? What are you saying about others? What's the story? Work with your trainers, trust yourself, and rewrite your story in the ring to be honest and true about yourself.

Round 9 - Stop walking into shots. A boxer never walks into their opponent’s shots unprepared. Start your day with intention and purpose. In treatment, routine is important.

Round 10 - Who's in your corner? - A boxer will never get into the ring without a strong support team. Surround yourself with folks who support your recovery and shed those who do not. List who's in your corner and build those relationships.

Round 11 - Plan of attack. Every fighter has a fight strategy. Let the team help you develop yours. Listen, learn and practice.

Round 12 - Shadow box for the win. A boxer shadow boxes every day to practice their attack and combinations, moving in rhythm and feeling the rhyme. To create lasting change, the brain and body must repeat actions over and over so they become a habit, a part of one’s being. As research suggests, it takes 90 days of doing something for it to become a ritual or habit.

Knockout – Life is a journey not a destination. Sometimes life throws us some unexpected punches that we are not prepared for. If we do what we say we are going to do we have a better way to roll with the punches. Remember life is series of letting go, of progress not perfection, a journey of stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. And recovery offers us a way to rewrite our stories and to Fall Up in the ring.

“If there’s magic in boxing, it’s the magic of fighting battles beyond endurance, beyond cracked ribs, ruptured kidneys and detached retinas. It’s the magic of risking everything for a dream that nobody sees but you.”

-Morgan Freeman in Million Dollar Baby

Can’t wait to see you in the ring!

To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website.

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