Focus. It’s a hard thing to come by these days. In our modern, hyped-up media driven lives, so much competes for our attention. Besides the pressures of work and family, advertisers, the news, social media and difficult people, all vie for a little piece of your time, consideration and if they can get it—your soul.
This constant daily over abundance of stimulation is enough to put anyone on edge. We are bombarded at every turn and researchers believe anxiety can be a symptom of living in such media-dense, over stimulated society. With all the noise, it can be hard to find that quiet place away from it all.
Many forms of meditation happen in the “act” of doing something. Think of Tai Chi or Kyudo, the Japanese art of archery. Kyudo practitioners, align mind and body, as bow and shooter work in alignment to trace a line and hit the target.
Japanese archers circa 1860. Image courtesy of Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan. Smithsonian Institution.
Driving a car just doesn’t require that level of concentration.
For most of us, driving a car is automatic. We do any number of things when driving. I’ve seen someone navigate a roundabout while talking on her phone and balancing a bowl of cereal in her lap. We are insulated from the outside world when it comes to driving cars. We can be sloppy and still maintain our lane.
That’s not the case when riding a motorcycle.
Neither your mind nor body can simply take a break. Motorcycling is an activity that requires you to maintain concentration on your line and that feeling of working in concert with your body and bike. Like the Kyudo bowman who aligns his mind and bow with the path of his target, the alignment of your bike and body with your “line” creates intense focus and calm.
This level of concentration pushes thoughts and worries (that mental “chatter” that is always going on out of your conscious frame-of-reference. Much like meditation, your focus becomes very singular. This relaxes both the mind and body and releases endorphins in the brain.
Motorcycle Riding and Science
The effects of riding a motorcycle were studied by researchers through a joint effort with Yamaha and Tokya University. Dr Ryuta Kawashima studies brain function and aging and is the creator of Nintendo’s “Dr Ryuta’s Brain Training” series.
Dr Ryuta Kawashima studies the effects of aging and brain function. The doctor rides frequently to elevate stress. Image courtesy of University of Tokyo.
Kawashima used riders consisting of two sample groups, those who rode on a regular basis and riders who hadn’t ridden in 10 years or more. The average age for the riders was nearly 40 years of age.
Kawashima ran the riders through a coarse, measuring brain activity through a wearable optical topography device worn by the riders. He noted measurable increased activity in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible movement, memory and decision making among other things.
Riders involved in the experiment reported lower stress levels and an increased positive mental state.
“There were many studies done on driving cars. A car is a comfortable machine, which does not activate our brains. It only happens when going across a railway crossing or when a person jumps in front of us. By using motorcycles more in our life, we can have positive effects on our brains and minds,” Dr Kawashima explained of the test results.
Connecting With Nature
Elements such as the wind, sunshine and visual beauty that nature provides creates a pleasant experience that elevates the mood and relaxes the body. Stressed out from work? Hop on your bike and watch your stress disappear.
There’s a great little ride back in my home town of Coeur d Alene, Idaho that is perfect for a quick throttle therapy session. When I lived there, it was a short distance from my house. Summer evenings, when the sun started to dip and doesn’t have its power that it exerts during the afternoon heat, was one of the best times to take this after-work jaunt. Answering phones, managing people, and just putting up with the daily crap experienced during the course of a workday was just the medicine I needed after a day at the office.
The route runs right along the lake and allowed me to take in the sun coming off the water. They wind in my face, the sounds, smells and visual delights helps to calm the mind and allowed me to reconnect with my inner spirit and the pleasure that comes with riding a bike. Even if just for a moment, it is always worth it.
“Research Findings on the Relationship Between Motorcycle Riding and Brain Stimulation.” Yamaha Motor Corporation, 4 March 2009, global.yamaha-motor.com/news/2009/0304/research.html. Accessed 14 May 2018.