I remember once being told that life is a series of problems and obstacles and that to be successful (for me, success is almost synonymous with the word ‘happy’) I had to be ready to deal with each one whilst anticipating and even expecting another problem to inevitably be lurking around the corner. But the lesson was that it shouldn’t be defeating or exhausting the majority of the time, it’s just life, and the best possible thing you can arm yourself with is a positive and motivated disposition.
Cycle touring presents people with a wealth of experiences, lessons and equally problems that need to be dealt with occasionally when tired, hungry or perhaps ill. In these situations a positive disposition is a great characteristic to possess and these words of advice may help to develop and maintain such an outlook.
- Write a diary. Simply writing about a positive experience has been shown to increase people’s life satisfaction, with the benefits lingering for two weeks after the task (Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol 62, p 1291). A further study found that a group of subjects who wrote about their emotions for just 2 minutes a day, over two days, reported fewer physical health complaints four weeks down the line (British Journal of Health Psychology, vol 13, p 9).
- Dispute negative thinking. This is a technique borrowed from cognitive behavioural therapy, in which you catch negative thoughts as they arise and ask: “Is there really reason to think like this? Can I re-frame this in a more positive way?”
- Meditate. Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues have shown that meditation can relax both your body and your mind, with many beneficial effects for well-being and happiness (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 95, p 1045). It’s not easy, however, and you may need some training before you get going.
- Nurture meaningful relationships with family and friends. More than simply improving your well-being, it might just save your life. “Social resources and ties to groups are one of the key buffers protecting us against unhappiness,” says Fredrickson. A recent meta-analysis of 148 studies on links between the quantity and quality of social relationships and mortality suggests that being socially isolated is about as bad for your health as smoking or drinking excessively, and worse than being obese (PLoS Medicine, vol 7, p e10000316).
- Beware of consumerism. Buying more possessions won’t make you as happy as spending money on social activities or new and exciting experiences (The Journal of Positive Psychology, vol 4, p 511).