Group Therapy - Mental Health Awareness Day

Going riding with your nearest and dearest can be the equivalent of a ‘brain vaccine’. From World Mental Health Day, 10th October, and onwards Pearson invites you to buddy up, saddle up and roll on out. 

mental health day- Two cyclist cycling in Wales

Pearson has long understood the rewards cycling can offer when it comes to mental wellbeing. That’s why we continue to work with not one but two mental health charities.

Formed in 1949, the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) is today Britain’s leading charity in the sector. With a focus very much on prevention, MHF’s evidence-based approach seeks to understand the myriad causes of poor mental health – including loneliness and depression – and offer solutions on a community-wide basis. To put it another way they, much like Pearson, like to bring people together and get them out and about.

Our other charity partner is Action for Happiness (AFH), an organisation endorsed by no less than the Dalai Lama himself. AFH provide events, advice and workshops throughout the year, and in the belief mental wellbeing is something that can be acquired. Central to their philosophy is the idea that social interaction is one of the best ways to boost both mind and mood.

mental health awareness - Two cyclist cycling in Wales

At Pearson we know the best rides are those you enjoy with friends. So we invite you to ride with some of your own. Even just one. Come rain or shine. Think of it not so much an invitation, as a call to arms. A chance to get the nation (we’ll settle for Surrey) back in the saddle and out on the road.

It doesn’t matter where, or how hard, you ride, the only target is to do it in company. And if you do, we’re sure both you and your companions will feel better for it. As they used to say in those interminable daily briefings from Downing Street: ‘Trust the science.’

It’s all down to ‘neurotransmitters’, the stuff that makes you feel good during and after exercise. Specifically, the hormones that pour into your nervous system and tell you that life is groovy, of which the best known is serotonin. Beyond the feelgood factor, those same hormones provide physiological sustenance to the body’s internal machinery – lungs, muscles – reassuring them in times of additional stress. 

coffee stop

Where it gets even more interesting is that recent research has shown levels of neurotransmission increase when physical activity is done with other people. (Steady.) Not only does familiar, face-to-contact lower cortisol levels, and thus blood pressure, it also releases oxytocin, a hormone known as the ‘love drug’, for reasons best not printed here. Add to that a dash of dopamine, and suddenly a ride with friends is transformed into more than the sum of its parts, a veritable mental-health vaccine.  

A widely-held assumption is that soundness of body contributes to a sound mind. It’s worth noting, however, that riding with friends creates two-way traffic, as Action for Happiness point out. A report produced by the Harvard School of Public Health drew on more than 200 independent studies to determine whether or not psychological wellbeing had any upsides for cardiovascular health. It was their conclusion that not only was a positive outlook likely to slow any progression of heart disease, it might also reduce, by as much as a staggering 50%, the risk of what they euphemistically call a ‘cardiovascular event’. That’s a heart attack to you and me. Enough said?


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