Face The Fear (photo courtesy of Bungy Japan)

Bungy Jumping And The Benefits of Fear

Jumping off a bridge is not natural. Millions of years of survival instincts are subconsciously screaming not to do it.

However, can the fear from bungy jumping improve your mental and physical abilities?

Extreme athletes and neuroscience says it can.

Over the past 30 years elite performers have pushed the boundaries human performance farther than it has in the previous 150,000 years by mastering the physiological effects of emotions to enhance their physical abilities.

Research has shown that a key to their success is the ability to harness fear to dramatically heighten focus. These psychological skills give them the ability to perform at the highest level of human ability and also improves their overall well being.

As a bungy jump operator this past summer I have experienced the sensation of plunging off a bridge over 50 times and watched countless others become elated with the challenge while some become paralysed with fear.

Research reveals that nearly 90% of people when put under fear induced stress are unable to think clearly or solve simple problems. However, these effects are not permanently debilitating. Often, experiencing fear can help you reach a greater level of emotional intelligence.

In his book Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales uses neuroscience to examine the physiological effects of fear in a survival situation. His research reveals that experiencing fear is an important part of learning. Gonzales writes:

“Moderate stress enhances learning. When two neurons fire together, they become wired together….So risk is an integral part of life and learning. A baby who doesn’t walk, for example, will never risk falling. But in exchange for taking that risk, he gains the much greater survival advantage of being bipedal and having his hands free.”

Taking risks are a part of life. Without them we can not develop.

Conditioning yourself for fear can help you to harness the emotion to perform better. Steven Kotler in his book The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance studies extreme athletes and how they harness emotions, such as fear, to perform the seemingly impossible. Kotler explains:

“mindset impacts emotion, which alters biology, which increases performance. Thus, it seemed, by tinkering with mindset — using everything from physical to psychological to pharmacological interventions — one could significantly enhance performance.”

Bungy jumping can be useful as a way to condition yourself for fear and risk. For those that jump nearly everyone expresses their initial fear, but an intense feeling of accomplishment afterwards. For most it will be a once in a lifetime experience. However, the memory of overcoming the fear can be important to changing your mindset and improve your performance the next time you are overcome with fright.

In reality, bungy jumping is safer than driving a car. The risks of having an accident while bungy jumping is 1:500,000. Between 1986 and 2002, only 18 reported fatalities have resulted from bungee jumping.

Experiencing fear is a part of life and is often uncomfortable. By embracing the struggle and gaining a greater understanding of emotion fear can be a powerful driver towards breaking through life’s challenges. Sometimes taking a leap of faith can be a big step to overcoming your fears.

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