Cycling and my Mental Health
How it started…
I started cycling to work shortly after taking up the activity back in 2014. Initially it was mostly about the physical and mental challenge – at the time cycling over 30 minutes was daunting, so setting myself the goal of cycling up to 90 minutes felt huge! To begin with, myself and a colleague, who I was car sharing with, undertook this together and we took on the challenge in the form of more bite-size chunks by only cycling one way (and car sharing / driving our bikes the other way!). Over time this turned into cycling both ways – taking on bigger distances and more hills.
When starting out, cycling to work was very much about the physical challenge – but I was very soon reaping the mental benefits; the comradery, new social groups, getting to know colleagues outside of the office, the time out in nature, the sense of achievement and mindfulness which comes with each pedal stroke. This is consistent with gov.uk paper by Public Health England which reviewed “Cycling and walking for individual and population health benefits [both mental and physical]”.
How things have change…
A few years on and cycling to work has become a key area for me to balance being active with the time-pressures of the modern world – it also helps me start my day with a buzzing feeling and keeps me honest in terms of “pulling” myself away from my desk at the end of the day. I am now able to tackle days at work, which could be highly stressful or provoke feelings of anxiety, with a different mindset and a mental clarity which does not come with commuting by car.
Making your own wellbeing a priority…
Access to facilities can be a barrier for most – and formed a key criteria of my selection of a new employer when I changed jobs a few years ago! If you’re keen to get started with cycling to work but are lacking the necessary bike storage and/or shower facilities – it is definitely worth making a case to your employer to provide what is seen as a key employee benefit, plus the additional benefits of health and well-being for yourself and your colleagues.
Jon is taking his cycle commuting to the extreme this summer, but attempting to cycle to every Hall & Woodhouse pub in Dorset (~350km in one day!) to raise funds for Dorset Mind – to find out more and support the challenge, please visit the challenge Facebook page and Fundraising page.
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to Jon Mead for writing about his journey with cycling and mental health- We wish him the best of luck as he embarks on his 350km challenge later this year!
If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency. Call 999 immediately or The Samaritans, FREE on 116 123.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.