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Bouldering and My Mental Health

I never thought indoor rock climbing (i.e. bouldering) had so much to teach me. In this season of life, I have learned so much from indoor rock climbing. Since the pandemic, I decided to start bouldering. After climbing for about a year, here are a few lessons that can apply to everyday life:

  1. Always check your gear. Before I climb, I always check my gear because it’s important to be safe when on the wall. Applying this to everyday life, I make sure I am emotionally and mentally prepared for the day. That could include exercise, spiritual reflection, journaling, and a healthy meal. What are your morning routines? What are the things that you do before you take on a big task? Take stock and make sure to do these things each day.

  2. Route the send. When I boulder, routing a send means looking at the wall and deciding how I will climb to the top with the holds available, in what order, and with which techniques. Similar to the day-to-day, there are benefits to thinking ahead before taking on an emotional task. That could include planning what to say/do before the event, evaluating what my feelings/needs are in the moment, and assessing what lies ahead before taking the next step.

  3. Start at the end. Sometimes when I’m climbing, I am unable to complete a send. When I don’t finish, I commonly look at the end of the route and strategize how to climb down as a means of seeing a new way of climbing up. This outlook can also be applied to how we deal with more challenging problems. Instead of starting at step one to address a situation, try identifying the wanted outcome and then work mentally/emotionally backwards to figure out how to get the need met. Looking at a scenario in reverse order may be the orientation we need to reframe a challenging situation.

So next time you’re doing something you love or learning a new skill, take a moment to see if what you’re doing can teach you something new or or frame a situation differently.


Lou Lim, LMHC, REAT is a licensed mental health counselor and registered expressive arts therapist (REAT) with a master's degree in Expressive Therapy and Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. He is a member of the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association and on the committee for REAT credentialing. He has 13 years of experience in counseling and expressive therapy working with children, adolescents, teenagers, adults, and retirees.

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