Why does every dog riding in a car long to stick its head out the window? Because it knows that the secret to happiness is wind on skin and air in hair. This is our clue to a fundamental truth for dogs and for people (and probably other mammals)– there is a critical velocity at which one can travel that will unfailingly make them happy.
There are two ingredients necessary for this happy-making to take place. First, speed. Walking is fine and good but it’s just too slow. Running is closer but not quite fast enough. On the other hand, bikes, cars, skis, boats, swings and roller coasters can easily meet the velocity threshold. It’s not necessary for you to be the body in motion– a stiff breeze may provide all the speed you need to satisfy this requirement.
Speed alone is not enough. If it were, there would be no road rage, because people would be in a perpetual state of bliss while driving and dogs wouldn’t bother sticking their head out the window.
The second requirement is air flow. Most cars shield the body from the physical effects of the speed. Riding on a stationary bike might get the blood pumping, but the lack of motion is profoundly unsatisfying. There is something carnal and ancient about forcing air out of your way with your body, feeling the molecules of air tickle your skin as they whoosh by. It works every time.
Maybe there is some evolutionary logic to this link between motion and mood. We advance our species through adventure and exploration. Was it the quest for this feeling that drove humans to build ships and take to the sea? Could it have been an urge for endorphins that compelled our ancestors to domesticate horses and simulate a brisk wind? The best explorers know that a mountain range is really just an unbroken chain of invigorating breezes.
The magic formula can be summarized as: “air on face at pace.”
And biking? Why that is absolutely textbook happy-making.
If you want to stay gloomy, hail a cab.
If you want to be pensive, take a hike.
But if the road is inviting and your life needs exciting-
if you want to be happy, ride a bike.