Most people have always viewed running as a way to lose weight. Some would have this as their daily exercise routine with hopes of achieving both their ideal body shape and healthy lifestyle. While this is very true, there is less emphasis on the impact of running on a person’s mental state. Running, though it may be a physical exercise, does not make it less of mental activity. According to Rachel Urbano, PsyD, “What I love about running is it helps me to see what’s going on inside of me.”
Everyone runs for a particular reason – may it be your morning warm-up, leisure time with friends, or an actual competitive sport. For day 1, you may do brisk walking first if the actual run is too tiring. For day 2, you can go halfway. 50% of the time you brisk walk then 50% you run. Then on day 3, maybe you can start running the entire lap already. But what is it that keeps you going?
It Encourages You To Focus On A Goal
A significant part of this running progression is your state of mind. Incremental, day-by-day progress allows you to focus on a goal one at a time. “The beauty of running is that it’s a sport that can be selectively engaged in to meet others and create lasting bonds, to independently release stress, and to achieve personal goals,” explains Leah Lagos Wallach, PsyD. Running helps you develop the concentration and determination to move forward, so you are more likely to avoid distractions along the way. It gives you a whole new perspective towards your daily routine and rejuvenates you when you feel like life’s errands have become too overwhelming.
It Boosts Your Self-Esteem
In studies involving adolescents and overweight kids, those who were able to run more laps at a faster pace experienced growth in their morale. It is anchored on the usual human tendency to feel more self-assured when meeting goals.
Observing an improvement in your body shape, having that feeling of being healthier after burning the calories, and realizing that you feel a lot lighter (physically and emotionally) gives you a confidence boost and a sense of accomplishment.
It Eases Feelings Of Depression
When you run, the brain is said to release beta-endorphins which are neurotransmitters from the pituitary gland which reduce pain, boost the immune system, and bring an overall sense of well being. According to Kjersti Nelson, LMFT, “Running is a natural way to improve depressive symptoms, and to manage mood.”
As compared to morphine, these have 80 times more pain-relieving effect. That’s why many call them as “miracle” compounds. Also, running increases the concentrations of norepinephrine which temper the brain’s response to stress. Running allows you to break free from the things that weigh you down and let you feel that you’re alive.
It Squeezes Your Creative Juices
In particular studies as well, there have been pieces of evidence pointing to the correlation of running with higher levels of creative thinking ability. The mental boost that happens when you run also allows you to think of new ideas and to widen your imagination.
Since you are in a more peaceful state, you are more able to think of things apart from the usual and routinary. It occurs because running encourages the growth of new cells and improves the survival rate of these new cells via the hippocampus. This part of the brain is responsible for storing memory, imagining the future, and thinking creatively.
It Provides A Sense Of Freedom
While you may think that running can allow you to run from danger physically, there is also something that happens with the brain when you run that relates to your problems. That feeling of the wind hitting your face and blowing your hair. That feeling of being able to control your direction. And that feeling that you can run as fast as you wish.
All these ideas create a liberating sense in your mind that somehow you have the key to escape the problem you’re in right now. Although it is not the only solution you need for your troubles, the sense of freedom brings you new strength to face each day’s trials.
So the next time you think of preceding your morning run, think twice. You may never know the wonderful effects of running on your mental state. It might be the right motivation you need to keep going on with life.