Do you experience fear before dropping into a bowl or jumping down a flight of stairs? Well, every time you choose to go for it, you build mental resilience.
I was attracted to roller skating for the ability of the sport to provide immediate joy. Roller skating provides a rush of adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, hormones that bathe the brain in instantaneous bliss. Beyond the momentary rush of hormones, the doctor in me knew that roller skating is doing much more to the brain, and the impact would be reflected in other aspects of my life.
Roller skating attracts people from all walks of life, and allows the individual to submerge themselves into different types of terrains. Height, speed and the unknown element of the environment is universal across the world of roller skating. The natural world provides an uncontrollable variable. The possibility of danger lurks around the corner. Most people would run away from such situations, but not skaters. They inherently know that learning to master the art requires a dynamic relationship with ourselves and our surroundings.
Roller skating exercises and strengthens every muscle in our bodies, and in addition, exercises and strengthens our brains. The amygdala is found in a region of our brains called the temporal lobe, and is responsible among other things for coordinating our emotional response to our external environment, cataloging emotional perceptions, such as fear.
Building resilience through choosing fight
The fear that I experience dropping into a bowl, sends an image to my brain of “Oh shit, can I survive?”. My amygdala processes the information and responds with fight, flight, or freeze. Every time I choose to go into that bowl I choose fight. I inhibit my fear, strengthen my amygdala and create mental resilience.
Research in the field of psychology found what we intuitively know, and what I describe above to be true. Resilience is the transformation of our fears and the natural outcome of practicing extreme sports. Research with athletes in extreme sports describe the ability to build resilience due to the inherent unique challenges of the sport. Extreme sports, such as park skating provide elements not found in other sports. The coupled challenges of height, speed, and uncontrollable terrain invite the athlete to overcome their fears.
The consensus definition of mental resilience is the ability to overcome mental stressors and return the mind to its pre-stress state. I expand on the definition and believe the post stress state, is a new rewired mental state. One that is better adapted to new stressors.
Roller skating builds muscles and mental resilience
Mental resilience is built by using tools such as roller skating. Every time we try new tricks, and we succeed, we strengthen our mental muscles. Roller skating is just like that five pound weight to the bicep. It inadvertently induces mental resilience through the transformation of fear.
The “transformation of fear” can also translate to other parts of our lives. For example, having the courage to go down a vertical ramp at six feet in height can relate to surviving that break up, or taking a leap of faith in a new project. The amygdala has been retrained to perceive fear as an opportunity for psychological growth.
Next time you put on your skates, know you are working not only all your body’s muscles, but you are also working and challenging your mental capacities, rewiring your mind to become the best version of you. Oh… and yes you should wear a helmet at all times to protect that brain.
*this article originally appeared in DogDays Magazine “Changes” issue