Do you enjoy physical activities? Have you thought about how they can impact on your mental health?
My husband and I took the day off together on Wednesday and went to Scarborough. We have done this before, and enjoying the relaxation of going on the train. This time it wasn’t going to work with school pick-ups, so we drove. As we were walking through the shopping centre, we saw a Ping Pong Parlour. This concept was new to us, and we didn’t hesitate to go in and spend around half an hour playing table tennis.
Essential to my relationship?
I’m no expert, but I have enjoyed playing in the past. My brother had a table tennis table that is still in my Dad’s garage. My husband’s family were keen, so much so that after the first question about a girlfriend: “Has she got hot hands?” (it’s no fun holding hands with someone who has just stepped out of a walk-in freezer, apparently) was “Can she play table tennis?” I’m relieved that I passed both – I don’t know where I would be now if I’d been found lacking!
My most memorable table tennis moment is on a summer school during the mid-90s. A serious tournament had been drawn up, and I made it to the final of the doubles. I have no recollection of which pair actually won, but remember that every gap between lectures we all ended up in the games room to settle this contest. This is a happy memory indeed.
So, yesterday, I took my boots off in order not to be disadvantaged by my lack of balance, and got stuck in. There weren’t that many people our age around at that time of day who didn’t have little children with them. However, a number of people of more mature years looked in. One pair took little convincing to play on another table, but wanted to practise against Chris or I first. We all ended up in fits of laughter, especially when their ball landed in the cafe opposite more than once. I was just putting my boots back on when someone else came in.
We got chatting, and he said he’d love to play but didn’t have anyone to play against. I sent Chris off to get his much-needed cup of tea and took my boots back off. It was the most fun I’ve had with a complete stranger in as long as I can remember. The venue was completely safe – an unused shop with full-length windows – so I didn’t feel vulnerable. It turns out that this ping pong whizz had just had his kidney and spleen removed, and wasn’t back at work yet. He was feeling the isolation of a life without regular company and feeling of purpose.
I can empathise with this – there have been a few times in my life when adult company was lacking, such as when my children were tiny. The work of keeping them not only alive but stimulated and content was much harder than my day job had been. Finding like-minded people to spend time with made a huge difference. And I can see how it was difficult for this man, who was used to physical labour and the banter that goes with it. He would have been willing to come along to the parlour every day and join in with table tennis, which helped both his mood and his physical wellbeing.
Improved mental health
I’ve blogged before about how playing netball has changed my life. It is not just the physical activity that has helped my spirit. I have benefitted from the companionship of the other people I spend time with. You can read here about the benefits of playing table tennis. There are so many people in this world who spend more time than they would like on their own. Being together in a shared activity is good for everyone. If you see someone standing alone, why not speak to them? And if you are next to a ping pong parlour, challenge them to a game. You never know, you might enjoy it.
What is the activity that has made the biggest difference in your life?
For more posts like this, follow Secrets of Heaven on Facebook