Somewhere in the Pilbara, I race home from work to meet my other half. We hurry ourselves and the bikes out the door, rolling down the driveway with one hour before sunset. Our destination is short travelled through the neighbourhood to a series of hills on the edge of the City of Karratha. We’re going for a mountain bike ride, a push bike ride where exercise is just an added bonus to this working week ritual which I’m going to enjoy sharing with you all.
We bunny hop the curb onto a red dirt gravel track, making our way into the hills and distancing ourselves from town and perhaps a little bit of life.
Recently I came across an article about ten habits of incredibly happy people and it was one that instantly resonated with me. I’ve enjoyed cycling for many reasons and very aware spinning the wheels outside in the fresh air contributes to a happier me all round. It has strengthened my mental health, my physical health and bridges the connection to the natural environment – which let’s face it, it’s why we are all living today because without it, we wouldn’t be here.
Thinking about the article I came to understand that the cycling pursuits we were consistently embarking on were essentially ticking 8 of the 10 habits mentioned in the article of incredibly happy people. How so you may ask? Let’s see…..
They slow down to appreciate life’s little pleasures
Cycling is a slower form of travelling from point to point, it’s free and draws attention to the simple enjoyment of feeling the sun on your skin or riding alongside a beautiful misty lake in winter. The little pleasures that cycling brings floods the brain, I might be at work typing up a report and all of a sudden I randomly recall a memory on the bike and become happier, reminiscing for a short while.
All styles of cycling is a form of exercise and it is a well known and researched fact, that exercise stimulates a whole bunch of feel good hormones, also dispelling unwanted nervous energy. I would even suspect with all the blood flow generated from exercise, the body’s organs are working a whole lot better, removing environmental toxic burdens.
They surround themselves with the right people
While cycling is a solo sport, I’ve experienced a strong sense of mateship amongst other cyclists, meeting many new faces whilst on the bike. On a social ride or race day, getting together with like minded people, there’s a whole lot of happy energy in the air and celebration of each other’s achievement. The right people share achievements and positive reinforcement.
They stay positive
Fall off the bike, flat tyre, lost on a forest trail or trying to conquer that challenging hill climb, I seem to have subconsciously learnt know how to remain positive in some tricky scenarios. The challenges faced as a cyclist perhaps better equip a person to seek out the positive spin in most situations.
They get enough sleep
Sleep patterns improve and bad habits settle when consistently cycling. I’ll happily have an early night knowing I have to be up before dawn for a ride because I know the ride is going to fun and exciting. I sleep my best following a gruelling long ride, even in a tent!
They help others
Cycling around, turns on an internal switch and with that mateship spirit glowing bright, you become connected to your surroundings and rather helpful willing to solve all sorts of problems that originated from simply stopping to lend a hand on a flat tyre. My first ride on an MTB trail in Kalamunda was met by a gent stopping to inform me I was using the wrong gears, making my cycle a lot harder than it had to be and his honesty meant a lot to me.
They make an effort to be happy
Making time for a cycle requires effort which includes meal preparation in advance and keeping up with life and work commitments. A long ride may be mentally and physically challenging but yet it feels good and while I can’t explain that occurrence except that it does make me happy, perhaps the brain sets into a routine, it accepts effort will lead to happiness and eventually does not perceive effort as a big deal because personally I don’t seem to notice the effort as much as I did when I first began cycling.
They have a growth mindset
A cyclist on their first ride is very different years down the track, cycling improves over time. Constantly adapting and changing to cycling conditions and improving rides. I believe a cyclist would be hard-pressed with a fixed mindset because each ride is very different.
BACK TO THE MTB RIDE AFTER WORK……
So back to our cycle in the Pilbara, we flow down some rocky single track and along straight stretches where the wheels stir up red dust. Wildflowers are blooming adding colour to the side of the trail and I come across nature’s perfect bouquet.
We tackle a few short and steep hill climbs with bums on seat reducing the back wheel sliding on those loose rocks, the low sun directly in our faces. We’re sweating and grunting to the top.
We ride side by side through a field of mature spinifex grass.
At sunset, a palette of golden colours mask the harshness of the landscape and covers our skin. The technical challenges of the trail gives me some courage as I press on, high up over the landscape.
Daylight is departing, we negotiate a tight coil up the hill and over a few rocks, we see the local Kangaroos and they aren’t too sure of us. The narrow trail carves into the side of a hill and to the left is a stunning view of the vast Pilbara landscape, we stop to catch our breath and take in the scene, it’s just us today.
A straight downward trail, which can be very fast with a few rock drop offs leading into a small valley and back up a hill again. In this particular region, this is a fast downhill trail met by another short hill climb. In this area there is plenty of ups and downs along the trails, dips to the valley floor or creek bed and then up the hill again.
A blazing sunset is the end to the day and we’re heading back home to have dinner and face the next day. Whatever happened during the day, we’ve restored a little bit of excitement and happiness to our lives once more. We have re-energised and like Dr Seuss says ‘Today was good, Today was fun! Tomorrow is another one!
I am fairly certain these 10 habits of incredibly happy people can be applied to a range of activities and hobbies, not necessarily sport. I guess consistency is key, finding something that generates happiness and making it happen day in and day out. What do you do?