I like to be outside. I like to ride my bike. I like to run.
But these things are more than just hobbies. They are necessary to my existence as a happy human being.
I wouldn’t call myself “naturally happy.” It seems like happiness comes so much easier to other people. Despite the fact that I have a great life, the doubts creep in too easily if I let my guard down. My own head is quick to turn against me. I have to work to feel okay.
For me, the most effective way of keeping the negativity in control is getting outside to ride or run or do some sort of aerobic exercise. Every day, or almost every day. I have to skip days here and there and it’s fine, but I’ve discovered that skipping more than a day is not. I get lazy and depressed, and then I get angry at myself. And then it’s even harder to get back on track.
It took me a long time to learn this. Though I’ve always loved the outdoors and for most of my life have been probably more active than most, I went through some rough times in college and began dealing with my sadness in not-so-great ways, namely excessive alcohol consumption on a regular basis (like every night) and smoking cigarettes. Then I started running, quit smoking, and began to feel a lot happier. I rediscovered biking not so long thereafter. But still, I didn’t realize just how important these activities are to me until very recently.
Mostly because I didn’t want to believe how important they are to me.
I didn’t want to “need” anything to feel okay. I had met a wonderful guy, moved into an awesome cabin and then house with him, liked my job, and had great friends. I should just be happy, all the time. I enjoyed running, biking, hiking, etc, but whether or not I felt like a normal human being shouldn’t hinge on whether or not I was able to get out and do those things on a given day.
Only a couple months ago, I began to realize, so what if I need to do those things? I’m not hurting anyone, myself included. Riding my bike every day is whole lot better than getting wasted every night. And I began to accept that yes, sometimes I do need to do things a certain way to cope. It doesn’t mean that I’m weak, or a terrible person, or that there’s something wrong with me.
Now I know that going outside and getting some exercise is a priority, and I’m okay with that. For a while, I felt guilty about going out to “play” when there were other things I “should” be doing. I felt guilty about skipping out on social events to go ride instead. I felt guilty about ducking out on visiting family or friends to go run for an hour.
But after days and days of skipping my workout to get other things done, and then not getting anything done anyway because I was too depressed, or not enjoying time with my friends because I was in a crappy mood, I realized that something had to change. The fact of the matter is, I cannot function well if I don’t get my outdoor aerobic activity fix most days of the week, and I need to stop feeling guilty about it. Because if I’m not happy, what’s the point of anything?
So this is why I brave the cold and snow and rain to ride my bike or go for a run. Some people think I’m crazy for doing that, but the reality is, crazy is what I am if I don’t.