Mental Health Benefits Of Running
Running has been an important thing to me my entire life. I didn’t know it when I was in high school. Even though I would go out and do conditioning sprints for football and run for hours, I hated running in track. I never saw myself as a runner back then, even though I was.
Maybe it was because when I was running long distances in high school, I always associated them with gaining slow twitch muscles, which is what you don’t want in a sport like football.
When I finished football in college, I decided I wanted to take up something as my form of exercise and decided that I was going to train for a marathon.
Running became my release. My senior year of high school, my father passed away. I was unsure of how to deal with the stress, so I turned to running as a way to take the edge off.
Running won’t cure any mental health issues, but it certainly can help take the edge off whatever you are going through. These are some of the benefits that I have found in my journey of becoming a runner.
Have you ever felt like you were stressed to the point where your water was going to boil over? I know I have in my life. When I was in college, I worked 40 hours a week, was a student full-time and I believe the only thing that prevented me from having a panic attack was running.
It may seem counterintuitive to add something to your life when you feel like you have so much going on.
When I was stressed, I knew I needed to do something. Running became my release. I made sure that if I had an hour to spare, I used that time to go out for at least a 30-minute run (using the other 30 minutes to shower/clean up).
Even running for 15 minutes can help reduce stress levels. Even if it’s not a tough workout, the aspect of getting out and allowing the mind to decompress is what makes it most beneficial.
When I run, particularly in the morning, I feel a sense of accomplishment for the day. I know that I did something productive to start my day, and that frees up my mental bandwidth to be released for other things.
If you have ever had that thought in the back of your mind that, “I need to do something about my fitness” or “I feel like I am coasting through life.” Running provides that benefits of freeing your mind up to do the things that you don’t necessarily want to do, but have to do them anyway.
This works especially well if you go out on a run when you really don’t want to. It provides that mental win that you got out there and did it anyway.
When you get to the point where you can run a marathon, that’s a huge confidence increase. The fact that you know you can run 26.2 miles (42.16 km) makes you feel like a badass.
With any form of exercise, running will likely give you a better body image outlook. It also gives you the confidence that you don’t need any workout equipment to get a workout in. If you are traveling, all you have to do is bring your running shoes. No matter where you are, you can always get some form of exercise in.
One of the main tools that I use running for is when I go to explore areas that I am not familiar with. I will go explore every direction and point from where I am, and it gives me the confidence to know where I am at any given point. At this point, I think I could navigate the entire Northside of Chicago with a blindfold on.
Running Is Meditative
There is nothing like going out on a morning run as the sun is rising. I often go out on a run with no headphones on and listen to the surrounding environment. Listening to the birds chirp or the quietness of the city is calming.
That calming environment creates a lot of space to reflect on the things in your life. I find running to be the most meditative when I am running at an easy zone 2 heart rate.
Even if you’re not a morning runner, this effect can happen at anytime of the day. Typically, when I go on a run, I will pretend that I am in a movie running from something or someone, exploring an unknown land. Let your imagination run wild like you’re a kid again instead of making it a chore.
The point of the meditative experience is to not judge any thoughts that come your way, but to acknowledge them and let them pass.
I’m not going to promise that running will fix any mental health issues that you may be experiencing. If you are experiencing any mental health issues, please consult a professional.
Running is something that I have found that can be a great compliment to whatever you may be going through. It allows the mind a chance to reflect and push through something hard.