Use Your 5 Senses to Be Mindful on the Bike
Even though it's tossed around as a buzz word, being mindful isn't just a fad - it's a way of living your life to the absolute fullest. And because bikes are a big part of your life, there's no reason we can't combine the two!
Our five senses (sight, sound, touch, taste and smell) are how we absorb the world around us. Not only that, it's our senses (plus our experiences and thoughts) that help us shape our reaction towards it, which is why they're crucial in achieving mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a valuable skill to have, but it can be a challenging and elusive goal to reach. Our lives are full of sensory overload, so overcoming all of that and being in a "present" state is a great feat. Honing mindfulness requires deliberate practice and deep understanding of the processes that intertwine your external and internal experiences: your five senses.
What's Sensory Overload?
Sensory overload is the result of an over-stimulation from our surroundings. Whether it's the computer or phone, calls, emails, fast food, loud cars or city smells - various stimuli fight for our attention daily.
When those stimuli have adverse effects on our psyche, it's harder for us to stay focused on the present. The mind fleets in the search for a relaxing place, and we seem distracted, uninterested, or downright lazy.
This blog is focused on how to use your 5 senses to cultivate mindfulness on the bike.
Out of Sight, Out of Mind
We spend most of our waking hours staring at bright screens, whether it's a computer, smartphone, or television. Sight is by far the sense that receives the most stimuli. We engage our eyes with street ads, artificial lights, or colorful structures which may excite or inspire us. Nevertheless, your eyes need to rest and recharge to be able to pay attention better.
While practising safe riding with lights and reflective strips, try a dawn or twilight ride to enjoy dim lights or semi-darkness of the space you're in. The simplicity of shapes and colors under such conditions relaxes your mind, and you will feel as though you can see the quietness around you.
The Sweet Soundscape
Nowadays, more often than not, we try to block out the external buzz with a pair of noise-canceling headphones that play our favorite tunes and sounds. Although this is often beneficial for deep concentration, on the bike it's nice to learn how to appreciate the natural sounds around you.
Try finding exciting murmurs in the soundscape of the bustling city, or the sounds of birds and wildlife, however it is. Once you control the perception of the noise, you will manage to distinguish every sound and enjoy them among your daily cacophony.
The Power of Touch
Is there anything warmer or more pleasant than an embrace of a loved one or your pet's fur beneath your fingers? Next time you spot a cute pooch on your ride (and with the owner's permission!), stop to give it a little pat which will lower your stress levels while releasing dopamine, the pleasure hormone.
The positive feelings you get while engaging in these fulfilling activities are priceless, and the more you are relaxed and happy, the easier it will be to enjoy the present moment.
Smell The Roses
We often use scented candles and air fresheners to fill our indoor spaces with artificial fumes that may smell pleasantly, but contain a mix of chemicals.
While out on the bike , and especially if you're off road or in a forest, take the time to really breathe in the fresh air around you. Eucalyptus, pine, magnolia, and even the saltiness of the breeze as you near the ocean will enable you to be more present on your ride.
Perhaps even the scent of freshly baked croissants and coffee if you're doing an early morning spin? Take note of what you can smell to level up your mindfulness.
It might seem strange to focus on taste during a bike ride, so this may apply to the pre or post-ride coffee or snack if you're not eating or drinking on the bike.
Though you might be hungry (or rushed), try to slow down and eat small mouthfuls rather than shovelling in hunks of food. Consider the different textures as you chew - what about the different flavours being released?
You may even decide to let something melt in your mouth and notice how that feels. The experience will be very different to chewing everything quickly!
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