Should The Wicked Witch Of the West Have Ridden Her Bike More?
To this day every time I ride my bike I can hear my dad singing the tune from the Wizard of Oz as the wicked witch of the west rides her bike down the road with toto in the basket. Doot-doot-doot-doot doo doooo….. Doot-doot-doot-doot doo doooo. My dad bought me my first bike at age 4 and I loved it because it gave me independence, freedom and agency. I could ride down to the store quickly for a snack or head over to a friend’s house licketly-split. As a teen I’d oftentimes ride with friends out to the lake or to float a canal. Having this autonomy from a young age developed resilience which is important to a lifetime of mental wellness.
Cultural psychologist Yulia Chentsova Dutton hypothesizes in one of her research papers1 that when students have fewer opportunities to practice autonomy, they have less faith in themselves that they can figure out a challenging situation. She states, “my suspicion is that low autonomy seems to translate into low efficacy and low efficacy, and a combination of stress is associated with distresses like anxiety and depression.”
Could something as simple as autonomously riding a bike be a solution to anxiety and depression? 100% yes. I am a leisure bike rider and if ever I am feeling a little blue I jump on my bike to take a joyride to connect with my surroundings and boost my dopamine levels. When the weather’s nice I jump on my bike 2-3 times per day for some short rides when I need a little break from life. It became a challenge to get on and go as I had children. You lose a sense of freedom with children always needing you. My husband recognized my need for this activity so in 2020 he bought me a large cargo bike so that I could take all the kids with me. This has had many benefits such as exercise, spending quality time with the kids, being outside, getting vitamin D, feeling the slight breeze in my face, which all contribute to my mental wellness. Maybe if the wicked witch of the west would not have been so wicked if she too had ridden her bike a little more.
Shelley Brown is a current Orem, Utah resident from small town Preston, Idaho. She is a leisure bike-rider that loves to tote her 4 boys around on her electric cargo bike. Sometimes she even takes her dental hygiene equipment in her cargo bike to provide preventive oral health through her business Homebound Smiles, LLC. Follow her work on Instagram @shelleythehygienist
1-Chentsova-Dutton Y, Leontyeva A, Halberstadt AG, Adams AM. And they all lived unhappily ever after: Positive and negative emotions in American and Russian picture books. Emotion. 2021 Dec;21(8):1585-1598. doi: 10.1037/emo0001021. Epub 2021 Nov 29. PMID: 34843307.