The Joy of Cycling - World Mental Health Day

The Joy of Cycling - World Mental Health Day

Children at play can be totally immersed in their activity, experience the pressure and joy of striving for achievement and a total freedom from stress.

Cyclists fall in love with cycling. Perhaps it’s because of the joy they feel when they are moving through space faster than they have ever done before or because they love the feeling they get from pushing their bodies to the limit or the transcendence they feel when they and the bike are working as one entity. Cycling drains them physically but charges them up mentally. When a cyclist is on task or ‘in the zone’ there is no stress, there is no need of resilience; there is pressure and joy, just like a child engrossed in play.

When mental health or mental resilience is mentioned it is often from the ‘deficit model’ perspective. We tend to feel that there is something to be ‘fixed’. On the other hand, we tend to have a much more positive attitude to physical resilience. We understand that if we train our bodies we will build our physical resilience. We understand that the type of physical training that we do influences our body’s ability to bounce back after we have placed demands on it. We also understand that it is never all or nothing. We are always somewhere between 0% and 100% of our physical capabilities.

We are always trying to move the needle in the right direction. We understand that if we don’t train well and regularly that the needle slides in the wrong direction. When it comes to mental fitness and resilience we tend to have much less of an understanding of the need for regular, structured mental skills practice. Mental resilience is seen to be somewhat of a ‘voodoo’ science; something that is needed when either outside forces/events seem overwhelming or when we are lacking some mental attribute and need to be ‘treated’ by a mental ‘expert’.

The good news is that our mental skill set is exactly that, a set of skills. We can learn them; good news indeed. We no longer have to choose our parents carefully to have a high performance mental skill set. The bad news is, of course, that we have to learn and then practice these skills. This is where aspiring top performing athletes, as well as normal Joe and Josephine Soaps, often fail. The strategy is often a no strategy. Approaches like ‘I hope I’m in the right head space on the day’ and ‘if I put my lucky socks on I’ll perform well’ are common. There’s nothing wrong with having ‘lucky’ socks; in fact, having a ritualistic approach to how we prepare on the day of an event is highly recommended to help us get ‘in the zone’. Physical ‘anchors’ are very powerful environmental cues and can act as mental signposts to focus our attention on the task at hand. What is often missing is the structured, regular practice of skills which allow us to stay on task or ‘in the zone’.

To recapture the joy of cycling we need to remove distractions that take our attention away from what brought us to cycling in the first place; the pressure and joy being totally engrossed in the moment. Just like a child at play.

October 10th is World Mental Health Day.

The overall objective of World Mental Health Day is to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize efforts in support of mental health.

The Day provides an opportunity for all stakeholders working on mental health issues to talk about their work, and what more needs to be done to make mental health care a reality for people worldwide