We hear the same thing all the time that running is the best way to keep your body healthy and stay in shape. There are so many physical benefits to running such as weight loss, better athletic performance, stronger bones and muscles, but no one really talks about the mental benefits running provides. Over the past few years, I found running benefits my mental health in so many ways.
When I was younger I was always an active child. I was on the cross-country team, the soccer team and even the swim team. Being active and participating in sports has always been a huge part of my life.
Over the past few years, I have starting to pick up running a lot more. After my competitive swimming career, I needed to do something that involved a lot of endurance to keep my stamina up. This was the time I decided to pick up marathon running and compete in triathlons. With my swimming background, I thought this would be a great transition and something else to experiment and accomplish in my life.
Ever since then, I find myself being addicted to running in so many ways. Sure, I have experienced great physical benefits, but the true benefits have come from the change in state of my mental health.
As we all know, life has many obstacles and many barriers to overcome. With all of these experiences comes all sorts of emotions that we need to face and deal with. In today’s post, I want to share with you the top 6 reasons why running has improved my mental health over the past few years.
Running Relieves Stress
Stress is no stranger to any of us, but the way we all choose to handle it is quite different.
Stress can actually cause a number of health and mood problems. When I am stressed at work or overwhelmed with certain things in life I like to take the time to just go for a run. Running has allowed me to get away from everything that is putting me down or stressing me out. By putting on my earphones and breathing in the fresh air, running has ‘magically’ been able to relieve all that pain at the moment and allow me to clear my head.
Every time I am stressed out, my headaches develop. If I don’t treat them they will progressively get worse and sometimes can turn into a migraine. For those of you who have experienced migraines before, you know how horrible they can be. Running helps to reduce the tension in my muscles, and allow my muscles to relax which can help subside and decrease the severity of my headaches.
As some of you may know, blogging isn’t my full-time career so I do have a 9-5 desk job. Sitting at the computer and answering phone calls all day can be exhausting and stressful at times. The best way for me to deal with it has been to step away from my desk and go out for a run on my lunch hour. Even if I don’t have a chance to run, just getting outside and going for a walk is all I need to help me feel better sometimes. Having that alone time to clear your head to relieve your stress is very healthy.
Runner’s High Is Real
The burst of energy and the quick release of endorphins makes me feel like a new person! When you run or perform any type of exercise, your brain releases chemicals into your body. These chemicals are the feel-good type of chemicals that make you feel happy and excited. There have even been studies that have proven that a runners high is very similar to the high you get when you smoke cannabis. Which one do you think is the healthier alternative?
Depression, sadness, lethargy are all the feelings that don’t motivate you to get up and go for a run. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s a hard road to get through. We all have good days and bad days, and some days can be worse than others. There have been days when I don’t want to get out of bed. I just want to stay in my PJ’s all day eating ice cream and watching Netflix. I bet a lot of you out there can relate. The best thing to do is force yourself to put your gym clothes on and head out for a run. You will find a few minutes into the run you are already starting to feel a whole lot better!
I’ve been there and I have never regretted any run I have forced myself to do. Although I have regretted the runs I decided to not take.When I am feeling down or just not in the right mood, Gavin will take me to the gym or out for a quick run because he knows how healthy running is for my mental health and my body.
With stress comes anxiety and anxiety isn’t easy to deal with sometimes. There are different levels and types of anxiety people deal with but for the most part, we have all experienced anxiety in some way shape or form. When I get anxiety, I feel like all my emotions are falling down a never-ending spiral staircase and I don’t know how to stop. Running and other vigorous forms of exercise can reduce anxiety symptoms and help you relax. Like I said from the beginning, exercise is my best medicine. After a run or a workout, I feel my best self again.
Sleep Like a Baby
Sleeping is something I tend to struggle with sometimes. Getting to fall asleep is the most challenging part. More often than I’d like I usually stay in bed tossing and turning, or can’t fall asleep until an unreasonable hour. Like I have mentioned before exercise is the number one tool I use to get myself to sleep. After a busy week and not having enough time to squeeze in a workout, my first day back has me sleeping like a baby! Not even a glass of wine before bed could help me sleep this well! I am able to get a good night’s rest in a very deep sleep. Next time you’re having trouble sleeping, try going for a run!
Stops Junk Food Craving’s
Candy, chips, chocolate, ice cream and PIZZA are all weaknesses for me. I am that person at a party who hovers around the chip bowl the entire time. That’s where all the cool people hang out right? We all want to pick up better-eating habits sometimes and prepare healthier meals. After a good workout or a long run, all I want to do is eat so many fruits! Something in my mind triggers me to not crave any junk food. A study was done that analyzed brain activity and its response to food cravings after running. Many individuals were found to have the part of their brain that craved junk food to be suppressed after running. Maybe I should consider running before every party (just kidding…).
These are just a few ways running benefits my mental health. There are so many other positive effects that running has on your body and effects every individual differently. Have you found running to help you? If so please share 🙂