Balancing Between Active and Brain-Based: Your Passions For Life

Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post on discovering your favourite exercise, a sport or your physical activity that dovetails neatly into your lifestyle and personality. A sure bet you will want to take up that exercise several times per week for health, fun and for a long time.

Brain-Based Passions
Well, at the other end of life’s passion scale, is something cerebral, that’s more sedentary, happily consumes and uplifts your brain, your soul. Be it music or singing, painting, cooking, volunteering, sudoka puzzles, blogging or reading detective fiction. Since you naturally enjoy tinkering and messing around

Passion Shattering Logic. Multimedia painting 2015. By J. Chong
Passion Shattering Logic. Multimedia painting 2015. By J. Chong

with pieces of words,  paint, wire, wood or fabric, curiosity pulls you further to try new techniques, colours, textures or sound pitches.

When Injured, Tired or Sick
I’d like to think whatever cerebral, non-exercise passion we pursue, it is our personal mental health insurance. It doesn’t guarantee happiness forever nor solve life’s bigger problems. But if we are sad, stressed, injured or can no longer pursue a sport, then we can slip somewhere temporarily for hours, in our brain-based expression of passion.

Free library box in Kensington neighbourhood. Calgary AB 2015. Photo by J.Chong
Free library book box in Kensington neighbourhood. Calgary AB 2015. Photo by J.Chong. Bottom script on box: “So many books, so little time.”

For several months, last year I couldn’t do much during my recovery from a head injury after another cyclist crashed into me. Many hours of bed during the day, doing nothing so that my brain could heal. I couldn’t stand for a long time with even head and body movements for small home tasks without becoming dizzy. So my bedroom became my tranquility tank of peaceful recovery.

Happy even walking with my bike. Fall 2014. Calgary AB. Photo by J.Becker
Happy even walking with my bike. Fall 2014. Calgary AB. Photo by J.Becker

When I recovered enough to walk in bright sunshine, I had to numb myself against the sight of happy cyclists whirling down the bike paths.

Mental Health Insurance, Satisfaction: Non Physical Activities Too
We have all heard of stories where some athletes have banked their personal achievements on their sport, the cumulative jogging-cycling mileage. Then one day, they can no longer do their

Canadian coin designs by painter, Alex Colville. Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto ON 2014. Photo by J.Chong
Canadian coin designs by painter, Alex Colville. Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto ON 2014. Photo by J.Chong. I enjoy art galleries and museums also.

sport.  They may become significantly depressed for awhile.  It’s helpful to have other passions, not linked to physical achievement or a past athletic life, because we will all become weak in life. We need to have our happy go-to other passions for our own mental health insurance.

After a year of not doing any art because of every possible excuse prior to my injury, several months ago, I finally dragged out my blank canvasses, block prints and paintbrushes. I still need a lot more art instruction to become bolder, more refined and more complex.  But for now, it’s time just to be in touch with colour, shape, mood and transformation.  I have suppressed the need to paint, create for several years at different times in life. But somehow, the need to create seems to nudge me forward to wake up.

Cycling Among Flowers and Mountains. Multimedia painting 2015. By J.Chong
Cycling Among Flowers and Mountains. Multimedia painting 2015. By J.Chong

As I said awhile ago, cycling is a happy active exercise for me, for transportation and health. My art and blogging are my health saviours to keep me balanced, yet flexible in mind and soul.

Since you maybe an enthusiastic blogger, what active and brain-based passions do you tend to pursue?  What do you want to do more of but just aren’t doing much of it at this time?

Knitted yarn bombed house. Plastered with time-intensive knitted afghans. 10th St. NE, Calgary AB 2015. Photo by J. Chong
Knitted yarn bombed house. Plastered with time-intensive knitted or crocheted afghans. On 10th St. NE, Calgary AB 2015. Photo by J. Chong
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48 Comments Add yours

  1. I came to the same conclusions as you some years ago, We had a wonderful friend who cycled, kayaked, sailed and skied and he developed a disease that rendered him incapable of doing any if those activities. He had no other interests and became very morose until the end of his life. So as well as outdoor activities both DH and myself decided we needed to develop more indoor type activities. I have always been a reader but he hasn’t. I sew, quilt and play with fabric. He makes things with wood and long may it continue. I have paints and pens for fabric and use them too, continually trying new techniques.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Jean says:

      And you feature some of your work, Brenda which gives more dimension to your blog. I used to sew a great deal, meaning much of my wardrobe until I returned to cycling in my 30’s. Nowadays I am altering my store bought clothing. So haven’t discarded my sewing machine. Probably never will. 🙂 My partner is a long-time cyclist. OFf bike he has been involved in cycling advocacy, blogging (he has several blogs) and helping his son with his business by doing the book-keeping.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love sewing and knitting and have done since I was a small child. I do sew clothing as I can get a better fit than store bought- small waist , big hips , a difficult combination at times. I got my first tricycle as a 3 yr old and have cycled on and off ever since. Thank you for commenting

        Like

  2. Pit says:

    I’m glad you found a way to balance your life and are well again. All my best wishes for 2016,
    Pit

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thx Pit. May life at your end be good and well this year also.

      Like

  3. Jean, I like walking and noticing the lines in buildings and the beauty in nature. I haven’t been walking as much since starting my job in May and I’m feeling the negative effects of that. I need to start walking again, every day, even though it’s winter! ❤
    Diana xo

    On another note, I thought you and your partner might enjoy this article on Germany's first cycling autobahn! http://road.cc/content/news/173907-germany-opens-first-stretch-bicycle-%E2%80%98autobahn%E2%80%99

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Thx for the link, Diana. I’ll be passing it on..to several people. 🙂 No doubt, you have been a walker, so the latest trend for you is noticeable. Hope you take advantage of the good weather there for now. You will always be forgiven for staying indoors @-30 degrees C. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. haha thanks Jean and Happy New Year!

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  4. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean this is an excellent post. After a very active 2015 I am definitely looking for more cerebral balance in 2016. There will be writing but I plan to add a lot of reading too. Wishing you a very Happy New Year and best wishes in all your pursuits. The paintings are gorgeous.

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    1. Jean says:

      Thx Sue! Hope you had an enjoyable vacation in Mexico. Look forward to knowing what piques your interesting in reading. I read also…primarily non-fiction stuff in last few yrs. Weird since I have an undergrad. degree in English lit.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sue Slaght says:

        Jean I am going for a bit of everything. Currently juggling Bill Bryson, Alice Munro and Lonely Planet’s guide to Australia. 🙂

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          A trip to Aussieland? 😉 My partner has been there twice. (Sydney, Melbourne, etc.) He spent 6 months instead camping and cycling solo in New Zealand as a retirement gift to himself. I think I’ve read one of Bryson’s bks. I recommend Will Ferguson also. He’s amusing and writes well too.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Sue Slaght says:

            Oh how I wish we had six months! Three weeks in total in Feb for Australia and Fiji. So excited.
            Thank you for the recommendation!

            Like

  5. bribikes says:

    Great post Jean! One passion I have that I have allowed to slip in the past few years is memorizing-the last few weeks I have been trying to get started again by reviewing passages of the Bible that I have already learned. I still haven’t decided what I want to memorize…

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Unlike you, I avoid memory oriented work for my personal passions, BriBikes. I save that for my job.:) No doubt, you will find a series of passages worth exploring and to memorize or more, become heartfelt in mind and heart. I did my undergrad degree in English Literature. So the Bible was more on its influence in narrative and metaphor influence. Do you sing at all? Just wondering if you do, if that would greatly facilitate memory of some biblical passages.

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      1. bribikes says:

        Yeah, that is a great way to memorize stuff! I do a lot of singing, I actually learned a fair number of Bible verses and science facts as a kid that way, I was homeschooled 🙂 When I was a teen I got into Bible quizzing so I memorized entire books of the Bible-I loved it and I was amazed at how capable our brains are of remembering things and how memorizing something makes it sink in the soul-but now that I don’t do it regularly anymore I can tell my “memory muscle” is weak 😉

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          You will age well Bribikes — cycling and memory muscling. 🙂 I read a medical study somewhere that singing in choirs is psychologically healthy for participants. It seems to produce an endorphin- like sensation and actually stimulant in the body. Seriously, choir singing was medically studied.

          I did slip into a historic church…just so I could see the restoration. In carol singing with others, I realized how much my vocal chords actually hurt..from not singing for several years. 🙂

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          1. bribikes says:

            That is really interesting! I guess I will keep on singing then 😉 Thanks for sharing with me, Jean.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! I’d also like to add that physical exercise/ hobby without any intellectual connection can be unhealthy. I used to strength train because I liked the way it made me feel, and how my body looked. I got injured and couldn’t lift anymore, but soon realized that it wasn’t that healthy of a hobby after all because it wasn’t holistic, and thus was unsustainable. I can get so focused on “MUST BE ACTIVE!!” that I forget why activity is important in the first place – to nurture and tone your body, and keep you healthy. Now I try to always connect mentally/ intellectually/ spiritually to my physical hobbies/ activities. This is what creates true joy for me! Sounds like that’s exactly how you practice cycling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Very true how cycling is complementary to my non-exercise, long-term interests –art, writing/blogging and photography. The trinity that you so well outlined –mental, spiritual and physical integration in oneself is important and sustains us better than 1 trick pony.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jean, good to hear that you are painting again – your work is wonderful! I’m taking an art class this spring and have had great fun purchasing art supplies that I haven’t had for a long time. Should be an interesting counterpoint to photography and gardening.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Lynne. Good to hear from you. What medium will your course cover or is it more on technique? Let us know how you have fun. Sounds like something you’ve been wanting to take up again.

      Like

  8. Mabel Kwong says:

    Such a thought-provoking article, Jean. Very sorry to hear that your accident with another cyclist left you home bound for quite a bit, but glad you used the time to do some thinking. It think many of of us don’t do that often enough…

    My brain-based passion would be writing, and it’s something that I do pretty much every day. Now that I am editing the first draft of my book, I do that pretty much every day. There is a fire inside of me that comes and go; sometimes I’d get stuck right into it, other days writing a few words on a page seems to be a chore. I would love to read more, though. It’s something I feel I don’t have enough time for. It takes me a while to finish a book, around two weeks in between writing, blogging and work. Sometimes maybe even longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You’re quite disciplined if you are writing and editing daily your book. I believe you have a paid, full time job too? Hope that fire of yours doesn’t get extinguished. Would be curious to know what your book is about. Is it fiction?

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      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        Most days. There are some days when I wake up and don’t feel physically well, so those days I’ll take it easy. I do work full time to pay the bills and put food on the table, and that is time and physically exhausting in itself. My book will certainly be non-fiction, bordering in creative non-fiction.

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        1. Jean says:

          Creative non-fiction –you’ve tweaked our curiosity. Are you aiming to finish by end of this year, Mabel? Be kind to yourself in terms of your energy, whenever your Muse is stuck.

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          1. Mabel Kwong says:

            I am hoping to finish the book this year, yes. But I think that will be a hard. We will see. Thanks for supporting, Jean. Good luck with cycling and art this year.

            Liked by 2 people

  9. Robyn Haynes says:

    Hello Jean, I enjoyed this post. An unsuccessful ear operation made cycling a wobbly enterprise for me. Now I walk. Blogging has made me more observant so walking becomes a meditation of sorts, where I practise mindfulness of what I am seeing as I walk around my neighbourhood.
    I’m still able to pursue passions like gardening reading and writing and have recently renewed an old interest in sewing and painting.

    I find it interesting to observe one’s own adaptions in life, one’s own evolution. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this – and for visiting my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I’m sorry that the ear operation didn’t solve certain problems for you, Robyn. Will be interesting where you take sewing and painting after a hiatus. Life adaptions is like rediscovering old coats and discovering new coats: hopefully we find something to transform.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Robyn Haynes says:

        Thank you Jean. Do visit my friend’s blog: abike4allseasons.com. I’m sure you’d have much in common.

        Like

        1. Jean says:

          Yes, I sure have dropped by abike4allseasons. I think she occasionally visits Cycle Write.

          Liked by 1 person

  10. livelytwist says:

    I hope you’re up and on the go soon. This must have been difficult:
    “I had to numb myself against the sight of happy cyclists whirling down the bike paths.”

    How wonderful to have other passions to fill the hole left when we are unable to pursue a physical one temporarily.

    I’m still trying to find the life-long physical activity that will be a passion. I’m disciplined at jogging or walking depending on how my knees feel. But neither are what I’d call a passion. A necessity, yes.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      It was abit frustrating during my rehab, lively. However I wanted to heal with time, to make it safer for myself long term.
      Clearly you love writing and chatting up with others on the craft. It’s a strong facet of yourself.
      As for physical activity, a person doesn’t necessarily have to “love” it. Just liking it long-term and because it’s easier to do it long-term instead of another activity. Do your knees bother you now when you walk far? Not sure if simple yoga or pilates exercises might keep you still limber. Hope you find a complementary new thing. The thing for me, it needs to be a physical activity that doesn’t rely on me being with other people. I see team sports abit of problem and restrictive for me. So active transportation (cycling, walking, hiking) works for me. Since you are in the Netherlands, walking long distances would be different…than ie. in parts of Canada where we have larger tracts of parkland and wilderness. Snowshoeing is one activity to try if you ever vacation in an area that gets lots of snow. (I know, snow and you may not mix. 🙂 But something tells me, you would love the magic of lush snow, fresh air and tramping about.

      If one is not hurt, it’s better not to overthink safe exercising and just do it. Even if it’s only a short distance.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. livelytwist says:

        Ah snowshoeing, who knows? 🙂
        I’m still taking long walks for now. Thanks for the tips.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. thedumplingmama says:

    Hi Jean, this was a great post. I did not realize you had a bad accident last year. You look great and I’m so happy you found art again. Your canvas is beautiful! I’ve been doing yoga for a very long time and that has helped me both physically and mentally. I also spin, play tennis and go to crossfit to add variety, but my outlet is yoga. Please share more of our art.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Happy new year, dmama! My accident caused me to be away from work for first several months in 2015. The accident occurred on Jan.1. No kiddin’, that’s how I experienced the new year…waking up in hospital emergency ward. What type of yoga do you practice? You’re probably even more fit that I am since you do multi-sports. So you’re other non-exercise activity is blogging/writing?

      Like

      1. thedumplingmama says:

        Wow, so scary! What an experience! Are you scared to be back on the bike? I practice vinyasa yoga. You use your breath through the poses and I find it really relaxing and challenging at the same time. Non-exercise, I read, blog, and design red envelopes for a small business I started.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          For first month, I did bicycling when there very few people around me and during times of day when there were less people. I deliberately would plan my ride times to best meet that at least 80% of the time. Best for me not to overthink every manoeuvre but to trust myself and be relaxed, yet alert. Like I was before accident. My 2015 cycling goal was to first enjoy cycling again in a relaxed manner, do certain hills again and certain distances. Forget about speed.

          I found simple deep yoga breathing helpful when cycling hills that may be challenging. Helps one focus, yet relax, dig in deeper mentally for inner strength and endurance. Hope you ply your biz to corporate clients…valentines is coming up. 🙂

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  12. Almost all of the above. Sketching (badly), piano-playing when no one is around to listen, reading, gardening, hiking, volunteering. Yoga and bicycling. Skiing. Travel. You’re absolutely right — sooner or later injury, age or illness gets you, and life is much more fun if you have a variety of things that scratch your itches, even when you can’t move around. So glad you’ve recovered and are back to making beautiful paintings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      You’re well-rounded in your personal passions, JB. Just short of blogging while standing on your head. 😉 Yes, hard to believe a yr. ago, I was still lying in bed, resting.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m so glad you’re doing better, Jean. I adore your watercolors. Not sure which I like more…maybe the first. I hope you keep up with them. I know you wouldn’t try to do this, but you could sell…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I haven’t really considered selling them because my works don’t to me, reflect sophistication. I’ve given some away as gifts to family. Or maybe I’m not seeing things right. It’s been a few months since I’ve done some paintings. Whereas I’ve cobbled some new blog posts that are waiting to be released.

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      1. Don’t we produce the best art when we’re not seeing right? Ha ha ha.

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Wonderful post, Jean, and very wise, too. And, as usual, a very well-crafted post with a lovely mix of images. So glad to know you’re doing some painting again, and I say that not meaning to pressure you in any way. You have a delightfully unique style that stands very nicely on its own.

    I knew about your accident, of course, and I knew it was a very serious one, but still I was a bit shocked to read about it here. I’m so sorry it was so severe, and that you’ve had such a long road back to recovery. I do hope you’re feeling better.

    I’ve always been a great reader, usually several books going at once. I also enjoy crossword puzzles. Being an illustrator, I can always indulge myself with personal projects. I used to play guitar a lot (pretty badly), but hardly picked it up last year. So one of my new year’s resolutions was to get back into it. My playing’s been pretty dismal, but at least I’ve built up some modest calluses– ouch!

    Again, excellent post! : )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Hi Mark and happy new year! I was incredibly fortunate that my vision and everything else was not affected. I am back cycling since June. It certainly has raised my awareness of the concussion concerns in professional and high school football, hockey, boxing, mixed martial arts Those athletes have to be willing to admit that they are injured and their coaches have to be willing to pull them off the field/ice. As you can guess, there are other sorts of other pressures and self-pride all rolled in all this for athletes.

      I look forward to maybe a cartoon on your return to guitar-playing? 😀

      Like

  15. Lani says:

    It’s so important to maintain that mind-body balance and yet, it seems all of us forgets to honor this (at least from time to time). We also forget how lucky we are in terms of movement. I’m thinking how injuries can set us off or change our lives forever. I feel quite lucky in this regard, but for me I have to keep my health in balance with my mental activities. I think learning new languages when I travel certainly helps, as does writing. I bought pastels in an effort to get creative in this regard. I rather miss it. I suppose it’s no surprise adult coloring books are gaining popularity – we seem disconnected from art. But not you – glad you are back after a break 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Look forward to hearing/seeing your adventures with pastel …when you’re ready, Lani! First jobs after university were: working in a hospital focused on geriatric medicine and 2nd a hospital elsewhere on rehabilitation medicine for adult spinal cord injured. So very early, saw reality of fragility of body , etc.

      Liked by 1 person

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