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How boxing can be good for your mental health

With 20 years experience George Veness pitches boxing as part of a holistic wellness routine for literally anyone

Born and raised in East London, George Veness started boxing when he was just six years old after his grandfather took him and his older brother to Newham Boxing Gym. By his early teens, George had won a national title, and continued winning successive titles for the next four years until eventually he was named captain of the English boxing team.

George considers himself a traditionalist, achieving what he has by balancing grit and determination with a sensible, holistic approach to wellness and fitness. He now passes on this philosophy as a teacher, bringing modern training to the old school boxing mentality and passion. Here he tells Dazed Beauty what boxing has to offer in 2019, and why most people’s perceptions of it are misplaced.

Boxing is a test of character and it’s been testing the character of its competitors since the days of Ancient Greece in some form or another. In the 21st century, it’s become one of the most popular sports of our generation, not just among those who compete, but as an aspect of athletes’ workouts across the sporting spectrum.

In 2019, boxing is more than just televised fights or local and national championships — it’s for anyone looking for a work out that forces focus but simultaneously lets them let go. It’s about focusing purely on movement, letting go of habitual thought patterns, sharpening your senses and, ultimately, feeling fit and healthy. As exercise, it’s one of the most efficient full body workouts out there, improving your cardiovascular system, helping you develop a lean and sharp physique, whilst also allowing you to abandon your daily stresses and release whatever you have pent up inside you as a consequence of contemporary society.

Yoga, oddly, serves as an interesting point of comparison for the sport: though the movement is obviously very different, it provides release in a different way but towards the same ends. It teaches similar principles of concentration and discipline, so if you’re stressed and yoga isn’t for you, boxing might actually be a good option.

This is part of the reason that the perception of boxing as a sport that promotes violence is decidedly a misperception. Clearly, from an outside perspective, it looks like two people fighting, but the practice behind that end result has unrivalled benefits for a person’s mindset and temperament. It’s far more a release of aggression than an encouragement of it, but beyond that, it feeds self-confidence, discipline and can often offer a community, which all play a major role in overcoming life’s issues outside of the boxing ring. Boxing gave me all of these things growing up and played a huge part in who I am now.

And now to do away with the myth that boxing is for men: it’s not. Everyone can benefit from these aspects of the sport. Obviously. At the end of the day, it’s just like every other sport in that sense, anyone can learn the skills, and the benefits that come from it are universal.

Of course in the past boxing has been very focussed on gender, but in contemporary society it’s far more inclusive. With 80% of my personal training clients being women, it’s becoming clear that it’s far more about a type of person rather than a particular gender. This modern world presents everyone with the same issues, making it perhaps more important than ever that we all have access to such a total sense of release.

Like anything else, though, boxing isn’t a solo quick fix, it fits into a lifestyle of wellness brought about by consistent good habits, but they don’t have to be complicated. Think basic: enough sleep, natural food, daily exercise (even if it’s just getting off the bus a stop early), as well as surrounding yourself with good people and doing anything else that helps you maintain a positive mindset. Once you start taking care of yourself and doing the things that you know are good for you, your body responds and rewards you for it. When you find the workouts that you love, whether it’s boxing, free weights, running or yoga (those are my top four), you’re well on your way to keeping your mind and body genuinely well.