While many equate good physical health with “being healthy,” proper mental health plays an equally critical role in a person’s ability to maintain overall healthiness. Focusing solely on one or the other is a detriment to someone’s well-being because we need both aspects. And, each component functions better while working in conjunction with the other. Physical activity provides a stress-relieving outlet that aids mental health and positive mental activity provides motivation and confidence to perform physical activity.
I’ve always found it difficult to address my mental health by solely relying on medication management and traditional talk therapy. While both can be beneficial, I always felt that I was missing something, like a tertiary piece of the puzzle and without it, I had been short-handed in my battle with stress, anxiety, and depression.
Fortunately, a friend came to me one day, dragged me off of the couch, and promised that we were going to do an “exhausting and humbling” activity. While at the moment it didn’t sound like a particularly fortuitous opportunity, it would come to be one of the most important, pivotal points in my adult life.
We arrived at a rock climbing gym an hour later and I could not have been more upset; I understood exhausting and humbling, but the excitement that my friend conveyed wasn’t the next thing that came to mind. To avoid self-deprecation, I would describe myself at that point as an out-of-practice athlete that had a special affinity for being sedentary. Moaning and reluctant to participate, I put on the necessary gear and stepped up to the wall – the rest is history.
I’m writing this blog a few years later with the familiar, humbled grin my friend wore on the day he took me to my first climb. Rock climbing is my passion and I will never be able to adequately verbalize its virtues. It managed to pull me away from my darkest thoughts and provide me with a feeling of accomplishment and purpose I had so long desired.
My involvement with rock climbing and its related community has allowed me to reach the full potential of a balanced physical and mental health. It’s my way of achieving the mindful state and steady breathing techniques recommended by therapists and nutritionists alike. I discovered, to my absolute delight, that I’m not unique in this experience. Bouldering is slowly making its way into accepted treatment options for depression and I believe the benefits are farther reaching than that. The next time you’re having a rough day, week or month, put your doubts aside and climb a wall – it might just change your life.
By: Zach Penn
Luttenberger, K., Stelzer, E., Först, S., Schopper, M., Kornhuber, J., & Book, S. (2015). Indoor rock climbing (bouldering) as a new treatment for depression: Study design of a waitlist-controlled randomized group pilot study and the first results. BMC Psychiatry, 15