Is Motorcycle Riding Good For Mental Health?
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Mental health is an extremely important part of every human’s existence, especially in today’s more complicated society. Riding a motorcycle most definitely provides mental health benefits for solo riding and/ or riding with others. Mental health is an extremely important part of our existence as it sets the baseline for how we feel each day. While we are here to focus on motorcycles and mental health, there is still helpful information here for people who don’t have access to motorcycle riding. While riding a motorcycle can give you the opportunity to connect with like minded individuals, it is also very beneficial to the solo rider as well in some obvious and not so obvious ways.
The freedom of riding a motorcycle
Nothing feels more like freedom than riding a motorcycle out on the open road. With fresh air flowing past, your mind zoned in on riding and the feeling of being able to go anywhere you desire…motorcycle riding and freedom come hand in hand.
Everyone’s had the experience of taking in the sites while riding passenger in a car…this experience is amplified dramatically while on a motorcycle. While the rider needs to concentrate and pay attention to the road and traffic, they feel totally immersed in the world, feeling all aspects of the environment around them while traveling through the changing terrain. This creates the feeling of freedom and helps bring peace to a normally racing mind.
Freedom from your racing mind – Riding solo can act as a kind of meditation, quieting down your busy mind, forcing you to be in the moment and concentrating on the ride. No living in the past or thinking about the future, but being present in the now (quite a difficult task to achieve normally). The experienced rider may feel their mind start wandering while on a straight road with little traffic…this is solved by riding in more complicated situations, like through a city or out on the twisty mountain roads.
9 Mental health benefits from motorcycle riding
- Fresh air – Enjoy the fresh air flowing around you, bringing the smells of the open world to your nose
- Being out in nature – Blue and green colors of nature improve your mood, reduce stress and improve cognitive function
- Feeling of freedom – The open road gives the illusion of complete freedom, go anywhere you desire
- Quiet down the mind – Acts almost like a meditation, putting your mind completely in the moment
- Release of adrenaline – Creates endorphins which then creates dopamine, making you feel happy
- Break from technology – Getting out of the somewhat toxic world of social media, screens and distractions
- Meet like minded individuals – Motorcycle riders have a great respect for each other, making it easy to make new motorcycle friends while at the local cafe, servo or out and about on popular riding routes
- Improve physical health – Riding is quite a physical activity, constantly activating your core and burning calories
- Improve problem solving skills – Riding will increase your cognitive function, increasing your ability to rapidly problem solve eg: reacting to dangers or threats on the road
Mental health and nature
There is mounting evidence that being in nature has clear psychological and physical health benefits such as cognitive benefits, positive happiness and mood increases, feeling more connected and improvements in emotional wellbeing. Studies show that both green and blue spaces such as trees, grass and water provide these positive benefits to the individual. Being out in nature can also help buffer the effects of social isolation and loneliness.
Stress reduction and attention restoration are related, meaning being out in nature will help improve stress and help replenish concentration levels. Contact with nature can increase happiness, improve wellbeing, and can be associated with positive social interactions and a sense of meaning and purpose in life, while also decreasing mental distress. In other words, go outside and look at some trees and the sky, it’s free!
Meditation and mental health
Meditation is extremely valuable to help improve mental health. While meditation comes in different forms and has many different techniques, the essence of meditation is spending time with your mind. The human mind is extremely complicated and is always running at 100 miles an hour…meditation is the simple process of paying attention to what’s going on in the mind, what crazy thoughts are buzzing around and quieting things down to help you be in the moment.
Meditation isn’t meant to stop these thoughts from happening, it helps you to recognise these thoughts when they appear, and choose what you do with them such as appreciating the positive thoughts and dismissing the negative ones. Long term meditation can help you to spend more time in the moment, instead of spending time thinking about past events or thinking about what’s happening later in the day/week/month.
A classic example of this is taking a trip away for the weekend to a beautiful location, then spending most of this time thinking about your busy week at work and how tired you are, or thinking about the busy week of work you have ahead of you (spending time in the past or future).
If you find this happening, do a quick 5-10 minute meditation to help bring you back to the present. There’s plenty of free apps that do guided meditation, my personal favorite is the calm app (www.calm.com). Tamera Levitt has a very calming, smoothe voice perfect for guided meditation.
Long distance riding
Riding a motorcycle long distances can really help improve mental health. You get the feeling of adventure and get to experience new environments while enjoying all the other mental health improvements of riding. You get time to explore your thoughts with minimal distraction. Stopping in new and sometimes isolated towns for a break helps you experience new places and culture adding to your sense of adventure. For tips on how to ride your motorcycle on the highway, click here.
The benefits of riding the twisties really combines many of the positive mental health effects of riding a motorcycle. You’re surrounded by nature in the fresh air with a clear mind and good physical exertion.
Riding twisty mountain roads can act like a form of meditation. The extreme concentration required puts you in a true flow state, clearing your mind of everything but the task at hand, keeping your mind truly in the moment. This helps us detach from thinking about the future and past, quite a difficult task to achieve.
Adrenaline is increased dramatically, producing endorphins and converting to dopamine making us happy.
In the past, Mental Health was often shunned and rarely talked about, but we now realize that Mental health is an extremely important part of being a well rounded and happy individual. In today’s complicated society, it’s difficult to slow things down and pay attention to our thoughts with society moving so ridiculously fast, especially with today’s grind culture. Riding a motorcycle forces you into a kind of meditation by helping you to be in the moment, rather than letting your mind race around all over the place. Overall, riding a motorcycle provides many positive mental health benefits that can help improve your general wellbeing and happiness.