Wow it has been a long time since I have posted. I seem to have abandoned this blog but now is the time to get it up and running again as a platform where I can post my thoughts on random interests and things that strike me. This post is just some thoughts on my re-discovering the joys of cycling and how beneficial it is to one suffering from depression.
I suffer from depression and there are days when I can barely get out of bed such is the malaise that I am feeling. The doctor has prescribed pills but time after time he advised me that the best course of action is to do plenty of exercise. I tried swimming and walking but these were all pretty soon dropped. It was only after I was invited out for a day cycling on holiday in Siena (Buenenotte B & B: the best place to stay in Siena, ask for Luca) that I rediscovered the joys of cycling. I had gone out there to recharge using the last of the pittance I had scraped together teaching English as a foreign language. It had been a bruising year with only sporadic employment and severe bouts of depression. However cycling along through the forest tracks of the Via Pellegrinaggio, feeling the calf muscles ache, the warm sun on my back and the late summer breeze on my face, I felt carefree and happy, my problems left behind. Part of the joy was not only how open you are to nature when cycling and how it seems to awaken all your senses to the environment, but also how it gives you and exhilarating sense of freedom. I felt like I was a young boy again, remembering the bike as my first real means of freedom to travel, to knock about with my mates and get out and experience nature.
On returning to Britain I immediately cracked open my money box and found that I had just enough to buy a decent hybrid bike: a Dawes Discovery Sport 4 for £450. In the interim I had been studying mindfulness and with this fresh insight in mind, I thought back to the time spent in Italy and how carefree it made me feel. I am lucky enough to live in Kent in the South East of England and we have a great range of cycle paths and a wonderful varied scenery. I have ridden through narrow country lanes, feeling the warm sun shards shine though a canopy of leafy foliage, ridden coast paths with the calming voice of the surf in my ears with the gulls singing descant and the sharp tang of kelp and salt in my nostrils and ridden out to isolated country churches, parking up by rickety lych gates and sitting on old wooden pews taking in the quiet atmosphere and breathing in the age of the stones. The effort of the cycling, the rhythm of your breathing seems to wear away at all your fears and worries and you do become alive to not only the physical feelings, the aforementioned wind in the face, the warmly aching calves and the slightly laboured breathing on hills, but become much more aware of the sights and sounds and smells around you. With the added bonus of being able to cover greater distances than one could otherwise manage on foot, one gets to experience a greater variety too.
I can honestly say that cycling mindfully has made a huge difference in how I deal with my depression. The darkness and the bleakness is still there and some days I struggle. However if I can force myself out on the bike (and overcoming that hurdle of wanting to do nothing is something that a depressive knows only too well), I know that I can leave my fears and worries behind and experience the carefree joy and wonder of a child again, feeling the speed, the wind on his face and discovering new things for the very first time. It is a wonderful tonic.