Bouldering and mental health

Bouldering and mental health.

I think we all know by now, how much of an impact exercise has on our mental health and wellbeing. Alongside a balanced diet, we can reap the benefits, helping us to feel fresher, motivated, and ready to take on whatever the universe throws at us.

I know first-hand how difficult it is to climb back up to the top of the wall, to be able to see everything clearer again, and to make the most of every day. 

Exercise and mental health; My story

Exercise quite honestly saved my life. I endured a heck of a lot of bullying during my teenage years, and I feel quite lucky now to be able to stand up and say, I got through it.

I was a rather overweight girl. And when I say rather, I mean, very. Unfortunately, kids can be cruel. This went on for years, I ended up spending most of my time in bed. I missed school and sacrificed my grades. Even the simplest of tasks like showering, or brushing my teeth were too much for me a lot of the time.

I must've been about 18, and I remember waking up one morning and thinking, I don’t want to feel like this anymore, I can’t carry on like this.

I can’t tell you what it was that made me think that when I woke that day, but whatever it was, I count my lucky stars, and I’m grateful for that awakening.

I started running

I'd seen that my Dad had been running, and as a snooker fan paid a lot of attention to Ronnie O'sullivan (who also happened to run). Everything around me seemed to point towards taking up a sport or some sort of physical activity. 

It was as if a huge neon arrow was being held by the tiny gremlins that controlled my brain, telling me to find something. I didn't have much money, I didn't have any gym equipment at home. All I had was a pair of beat up old trainers and a pair of shorts, and that was all I needed. 

From that moment, I had found something I could do on my own, away from everyone, in the clothes I had, just outside my front door. 

The hardest part

The hardest part of starting ANY sort of exercise is actually putting your trainers on. Even now, 10 years on, it’s the hardest part, and I've been doing this a long time.

Once you get past the I don’t want to and convince yourself to get out, or workout, you’re winning. The happy hormones will kick in, you’ll feel so good, and you’ll want to do it again.

The cycle

As with our weekly hair routine, we wash, rinse, repeat. The same applies to exercise. You will enter into a never ending cycle, an internal battle, an argument with the gremlins every morning and it will more than likely go like this;

The cycle

This is a good thing believe it or not. It acts as not only a motivator, but as proof that you can do it, and you will continue to do it just as long as you stay focused. 

You will definitely fall off the wagon at some point, and you have to remember that that is OK. It's not a sign of failure, or weakness. It's a sign that you are human (I know, I couldn't believe it either).

The important thing, as I said, is to accept you're having a break, enjoy it, and start again tomorrow. Nobody is watching, nobody is keeping count. You are human.

The easiest thing to do is to be self-critical. There’s absolutely no point in telling yourself that you’ve failed. Quite the opposite actually, because you’ll just end up at square one again. 

And, ain't nobody got time for that!

Theory

Image by Jack Moreh

Sociologist, Robert K Merton came up with a theory called the self-fulfilling prophecy, that suggests (in plain terms) that if you tell someone that they are something often enough, they will eventually start to believe it and be the thing anyway.

I LOVE this theory because it is so true.

Wherever you are, right now, find a mirror or something you can see yourself in. Now I want you to focus on yourself and just look for about 30 seconds. Now, tell yourself

I am enough, I love you.

I promise you; you’ll feel a warmth in the pit of your stomach, it’ll rise to your chest and manifest itself as a smile on your face, then a laugh.

You feel good, don’t you? Point proven. Kind of anyway.

So, what I’m saying is, if you tell yourself often enough you can’t do something, your brain is going to start believing it, and that’s going to set you up to fail before you even begin. I want you to practice that every day! See the difference it makes.

Rest

You’re going to have days where your body tells you to STOP! And on those days you're going to want to listen.

It’s more than OK to lounge about on the sofa, or have that extra hour in bed, or meet a friend for coffee and cake.

Rest is as equally important as the workout itself. Your muscles need time to repair.

Bouldering as a treatment for depression

Milo on the wall

Eva-Maria Stelzer, a researcher from the university of Arizona recently conducted a study looking into Bouldering as a treatment for depression. The study looked at the social, physical, and mental aspects of bouldering and found a significant reduction in feelings of depression in participants.

This for me is ground-breaking,

  1.  because it reinforces the idea that exercise does treat mental health symptoms, and
  2.  because it puts bouldering on the map as it continues to grow as a sport, especially with the inclusion at the Olympics.

At the back end of 2019, and in early 2020 I was experiencing low mood and generally feeling rubbish. 

I was invited to climb with my friend, she told me she always climbed when she felt low. What did I have to lose, am I right?

I felt awesome afterwards, and the bonus; I found a physical activity I could do on my own, with a friend, in a group, indoors or outdoors (I can even bring the dog).

Bouldering ticks all the boxes (even the box labelled "cake").

Everyone is different

I realise I’m making this out to be the easiest thing in the world. If you are just about to embark on a new regime, it will honestly be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but you will reap the long-term benefits.

Bouldering is a great exercise to start with. It doesn't put too much pressure on your joints, it's inclusive for everyone of any age, gender, background, geographical location, cat owner, dog owner, Bon jovi fan. You get the picture. 

The best thing though? It doesn't feel like exercise. You can climb at your own pace, choose which routes you want to do with absolutely NO pressure from anyone, (and it gives you the added bonus of giving your brain a workout with problem solving). It's fabulous. 

But don't take my word for it. Come and give it a go. We love meeting new people at Boulder Hut

On a serious note though, now more than ever we need to look after number 1. We have just lived through a global pandemic, something that we may (or may not) see again in our lifetime. Our lives changed overnight, but we can take back control, slowly but surely, and be the best versions of ourselves.

I use this phrase quite a lot, but If I can do it, so can you!

In short;

  1. Exercise will make you feel better
  2. Bouldering could be your answer to maintaining good mental health
  3. There is no one size fits all
  4. Tell yourself every day that you are enough
  5. You are always welcome here, at Boulder Hut

Sophie :) 

 

Disclaimer: Please discuss with a doctor or mental health specialist about what treatment is available to you. The author of this article is not a professional and has only presented facts and research. If you feel you are in crisis and require urgent assistance please go to your nearest A&E or call Samaritans FREE anytime of the day or night on 116 123

About the author

Located just off Junction 7 of the M53, in Ellesmere Port, just 10 minutes from Chester