Most of us have said at one time or another that we are taking a mental health day. What we really mean is that we have elected to take a day off from work to de-stress.
It makes a lot of sense when you think about all of the demands on our time each day. We have deadlines and pressure from work, family responsibilities, and commitments to organizations and groups that we belong to or support.
When is it time to step back from all of these demands and simply be alone with your thoughts by allowing your mind to focus on a single thing rather than multitasking in an attempt to accomplish your ever-growing to-do list?
The answer is when you are on your motorcycle.
Driving vs Riding
Some people might argue that riding a bike is no different than driving a car. But most of those people would not be experienced riders, I’m guessing. Honest drivers will admit to an unbelievable amount of multitasking leeway while driving.
They are listening to the radio and fiddling with the station selection and volume, talking on the phone with or without a hands-free application, eating, talking to passengers in the car, applying makeup, shaving, reading or responding to texts or email, and even making notes about a work-related issue.
I have actually witnessed all of these occurring in a vehicle that is near me in traffic or one I am riding in. The truth is that driving is not what most of these people were focused on and so driving requires a lot less concentration. Riding a bike requires much more focus and concentration.
Riding Not Driving Offers A Benefit
Riders are not only using the thought processing portion of their brain to make decisions about the road around them and how to react to the changing conditions, but they are also using another part of their brain to control all of the balance and coordination required to ride. Scientists believe that this added concentration actually increases brain function and health.
Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the author of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain, explains that:
“Riding a motorcycle changes the simplest of commutes into an event that challenges the mind in ways that driving just can’t. In a ‘use it or lose it’ sense, riding a motorcycle appears to be a great form of exercise for your brain and a way to help reduce the impact that aging can have on cognitive function”.
Riders Benefit From Being Outdoors Rather Than In a Car
There have been dozens of studies to determine how humans benefit from being out in nature. Findings point to everything from reduced stress levels to lower blood pressure and increased energy levels.
The Healing Power of Nature
One study found that being near trees or even having a clear view of trees, provided a sense of calm to the participants. The outcomes of many studies related to the impact of nature on the human mind and body have even resulted in hospitals proving views of trees and natureimprove the healing in hospital patients.
Part of the reason that most motorcycle riders benefit more from nature than car drivers is the fact that riders are far more immersed in nature. A rider feels the wind, sun, and temperature, while a driver maintains a climate-controlled environment inside the car.
Being immersed in the outdoors and changing climates helps a rider connect to nature using all of the senses. This experience increases the mental and physical benefits that he or she gains from being outside.
The World Inside Your Helmet
There are a few reasons that I always wear a helmet when I ride. The first is simply the protection that it offers in the event of an accident or from debris that could come hurtling toward my head (and don’t forget ATGATT!).
It is also a good way to protect my eyes from dust and bugs that always seem to find their way around my glasses and into my eyes.
Relax With Some White Noise
But the last reason is because of the sound that my helmet muffles when I am riding. I still hear all of the sounds of vehicles around me and the sound of approaching sirens on emergency vehicles, but everything else in the world is reduced to white noise.
I always found the solitude of being inside my helmet to be peaceful and relaxing, but I just associated that with the enjoyment of riding my bike. However, it turns out that there are somevery real benefits to the white noise that I enjoy inside my helmet. The sound has actually been proven to be relaxing and helpful in stress reduction.
In addition, white noise helps to increase your attention and develops mental clarity. So in a very real way, wearing a motorcycle helmet can make you a safer rider, as you are more focused on your riding and are less prone to distractions from outside stress.
Great Time for a Ride!
We don’t all have the luxury of taking a day off to de-stress when life becomes too busy or overwhelming. But it seems that riders have always known that even a short ride can bring with it an amazing amount of relaxation, stress reduction, and clarity. And now, there are plenty of scientific studies that support what we have all known for years.
Riding a motorcycle provides a great many mental health benefits that are much needed with our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules. There’s no reason without proper safety precautions and full gear that you too can’t benefit from everything that riding a motorcycle can provide for you. It even continues to provide many health benefits riding later in life.
So be sure to make time for a break now and then to get out on your bike and enjoy the benefits of nature, white noise, and the clarity that comes only when you are out on two wheels.