How are you? This question is asked often when people greet one another. I have learned that some people will automatically respond, “fine” without giving it any thought. Or when people do answer, often they are thinking mostly of their physical health. Occasionally, some individuals will talk about their emotions but usually headaches, sore backs or sore throats seem to get top billing. Mental health matters and shouldn’t take a backseat to physical health.
As an avid bicyclist year-round, I have discovered that riding my bike is my meditation time. I am often alone with my thoughts. As I propel myself forward, I need to stay balanced and I breathe deeply. There is a rhythm that exists and I quiet my mind or process my thoughts. This year, from July to October, I biked every day for 80 days in a row. What I noticed after I stopped for a couple of days was that my mental well-being suffered. I am increasingly aware of the connection between the endorphins that come from physical activity, and my mental wellness.
When I think of mental health and physical health, I think of riding a tandem bike. Both are going in the same direction and the two need to work together. The person in front of a tandem does the steering, the person on the back just pedals. It seems to me that those who ride a tandem should switch positions from time to time so each gets a chance to steer. In life, sometimes our mental wellness drives our physical health, and other times, how we are feeling physically takes our mental wellness in a different direction. Both our physical and mental wellness matters. Both are on the same path and, just like riding a bike, there needs to be a balance. If either one is a little off, a person can fall or have a tougher time.
As we settle into autumn and we see winter on the horizon, the diminished sunshine and cooler temperatures can provide challenges for getting enough physical activity. Simply going for a walk or moving around can help maintain your balance. Find a strategy to build in routines. Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Tell yourself you’ll just begin with 15 – 20 minutes a day of walking. At least you are on the path to restoring balance.
Next time someone asks how you are, take a pause and do a quick check-in both physically and mentally. And know that if you are facing challenges with your mental wellness, Painting Pathways Clubhouse is here to help.