Kendamental Health: Volume 1

Kendamental Health: Volume 1

Kendamental Health

A periodic blog focused on presenting the peer reviewed data related to Kendama use and its positive effects on Mental Health and Wellbeing.  

Author: Jacob Callaway M.A., CRC

Almost everyone who has picked up a Kendama and began actively playing it has quickly experienced the profound effect it has on one's mental health, perception of self-efficacy, or the cognitive processing speeds. Rarely have we been presented with the actual evidence to begin backing up this claim. This blog is meant to serve as a reference point and steppingstone to further research, data collection, and writings on the healing effects of Kendama and other skill toys.

Kendama used as a Positive Distraction for Coping with Stress

Anecdotes commonly heard throughout the Kendama community include how Kendama is a significant factor influencing the user's mental health however, there has been little research or data to correlate this occurrence outside of the obvious inference linking physical exercise to dopamine release. In fact, active play of Kendama has a much deeper and more profound effect on us than this, providing a positive distraction from both existential and chronic stress, and becoming another weapon to wield in gaining control of your own mental health.

When people are navigating a difficult life stressor, they often seek a sort of relief through activities which present a distraction to the issue at hand. Negative distractions are those which are often labeled as maladaptive coping strategies and generally offer a way to avoid the stressor which can be detrimental to the individuals long term wellbeing. Many of us either engage in these distractions or have seen others engage them most frequently in the form of alcohol, tobacco, other commonly used substances, and social withdrawal/isolation. These distraction strategies are like band-aids, often serving as a temporary relief and leaving us feeling worse off than we did before.  They might feel good in the short term, but they will likely hurt you in the long term. Positive distractions to coping with stress include physical activities, self-care-, self-development, and engaging in other healthy practices. Unlike avoidant strategies, positive distraction does not simply mask or ignore the issue but rather provides a productive relief to the stress. “Positive distraction involves redirecting attention from the stressor to activities or thoughts that could induce positive emotions. Therefore, one can characterize positive distraction as a positive emotional coping strategy that capitalizes on positive emotions as a coping tool” (Waugh et al 2020).

Due to the natural dopamine release (present in most physical activity), increase in emotional wellbeing (due to development of effective coping skills), and increases in the development and maintenance of self-efficacy present when using Kendama, it likely falls into the category of a positive distraction. As you continue to engage in Kendama in this way, you create a behavioral norm which becomes your body's go-to-response, increasing your self-efficacy for navigating future stressors. Just as practicing your tricks increases your likelihood of landing them, practicing this skill increases its effect and ability to provide needed relief. 

When Kendama becomes a stressor in itself, it is also safe to assume that the adverse effect to positive distraction is happening. On one hand, Kendama can hold an incredibly therapeutic role in our lives, for those who experience significant stressors as a result of engagement with it can have adverse effects. If Kendama is a source of stress for you, it is increasingly important to take an objective look at your relationship with your distraction techniques and limit those which will erode self-efficacy and success.  “Positive distraction (and to a lesser extent, neutral distraction) were moderately and inconsistently related to higher well-being and fewer depressive symptoms and stress on a zero-order level, but when controlling for avoidance, positive (and neutral) distraction became a stronger predictor of increased well-being and fewer depressive symptoms and stress. These results suggest that positive distraction and avoidance do share some conceptual and functional overlap as coping strategies, but that they have unique and opposing relationships with mental health outcomes: Avoidance is a maladaptive coping strategy, predicting more depressive symptoms and lower well-being scores in the present study, whereas positive distraction in its purest form predicts fewer depressive symptoms and higher well-being scores” (Waugh et al, 2020). 

“Now you know and knowing is half the battle.”

- G.I. Joe

TLDR; Engagement in Kendama can be a positive coping strategy, increasing positive emotions and leading to an increase in self-efficacy and overall success. Kendama is a tool, not a reason to avoid life's problems. When used correctly, positive distraction can become an effective strategy to mitigate some symptoms of anxiety and depression. 


Waugh, C. E., Shing, E. Z., & Furr, R. M. (2020). Not all disengagement coping strategies are created equal: Positive distraction, but not avoidance, can be an adaptive coping strategy for Chronic Life Stressors. Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 33(5), 511–529. 

Back to blog