15 Mental Health Benefits Of Running Regularly As A Person With Depression..
I don’t know what it is but I always feel down on a Monday. Ever since I’ve taken up running I’ve felt depressed a lot less often but I do still get shitty old days where I have no energy and just want to go to bed to eat Cheestrings and watch Lassie.
That’s why I thought it was important to write this post which lists the mental health benefits that I’ve experienced from running over the past 2 years.
I hope this helps someone out there and if you dig it, please share it! Thanks.
- Running is a natural antidepressant – If I’m ever down then I can pick myself up with a run. In terms of my overall mood I will go from a 5/10 to a 8/10 with a quick 10k. It’s that simple. Some might argue that it isn’t healthy to rely on running to regulate your mood. Maybe that’s true. That said, being dependent on exercise to regulate your mood is much better than having to rely on medication. Running is free. Prozac isn’t.
- Running establishes a positive routine in your life that helps combat depression – When your have depression your lifestyle can become erratic. Running regularly, tends to give your week a structure. If I run in the morning then I’ll be more alert all day and will rest easier at night too. Without that, I’m all over the place.
- Running gives you a direction if you were previously directionless – Even if that direction is simply forward. I still don’t know where I’m going but that’s different from not having a direction. I’ll go wherever forward takes me.
- Say goodbye to apathy/malaise – Without running I’m an apathetic mess who blames the Universe for being born on the wrong island with a wacky head. I tell myself that there is no point to running as I’ll end up dying anyway regardless of how healthy I am. That’s the depression talking. The only way out of it is to step out the door and start running. Once my legs are in motion the apathy and malaise begin to disappear. They are replaced with a deep seated anger that isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s something that I can use as fuel to get me through the day. I just have to keep my emotions in check after the run. I don’t want to get arrested for giving the mailman a hearty slap to the ass after a 10 miler.
- Running will make you more determined to see bad times through – If you ever find yourself in a rut again then the focus that running gives you will allow for escape from even the worst of ruts. If you can brave out a difficult 10K/half marathon or marathon race, then you’re equipping yourself to deal better with negative emotion.
- Hopelessness will die a death from running – Progress has been slow for me but even the faintest glimmer of improvement has given me hope that I can not only get better as a runner but also as a person too. I no longer feel hopeless (except if I’ve shit and there’s no paper to wipe with and I have to do the penguin waddle to the closet for a spare roll).
- Greater tolerance to mental pain – If you can get through the pain of a bad run then it gives you a higher pain threshold that will see you through even the worst mental episodes. You mightn’t always be able to face all of your problems down immediately, but you will get stronger.
- Running increases your independence and self confidence – Running sparked a personal revolution within that has given me the confidence in myself to travel to races across the UK and Europe on my own. I didn’t get first my passport until I was 27. Before I started running, the thought of even to the cinema on my own was terrifying. I may have been a loner for most of my life, but I never had the confidence to stand on my own truly until I became a runner. Now I’ve spent so long on my own through early mornings and late nights that I don’t really care what anyone else thinks. I’m out to enjoy myself. I’m happy to set my own goals, run at my own pace and live my own life and not worry too much about how I’m perceived.
- Running is great for managing panic attacks – I rarely get panic attacks any more, but if I feel one coming on I’ll put my running shoes and jog it off. Before I’d wait and just hope that the attack would pass. It would then steamroller me into submission and the panic could get unbearable. Now I see the fight or flight mechanism as a positive. It is responsible for kick starting some of my best runs ever. Tension and rising panic aren’t your enemies. They are natural processes in your body. You aren’t a basket case if you experience this from time to time. You can the first warning signs of an anxiety attack to fuel you onwards.
- Running gives you a greater sense of mental liberation – It helps to know that there’s a world outside your mind. It pays to escape the same old negative thought cycles and to allow new thoughts to form. When I’m out on the road I try to forget who I am and let everything be.
- You’re not alone as a runner with mental health problems – I’ve talked about the social aspects of running before but runners are a different breed. Many are suffering from problems like depression, addiction and anxiety and are seeking recourse in the sport. I find it’s helpful knowing that in runners you have kindred spirits who may come from different backgrounds but suffer from the same kinda problems as yourself.
- In you comfort eat to ‘help’ sadness then at least you have a way of burning the excess food off – Before I’d feel trapped in a cycle of overeating, depression and weight gain. Now that I run regularly I am less confined by this vicious cycle. I still struggle with it, but I’m by no means beaten by it. When I weigh less I feel better within myself. My mind is clearer and I can make more informed decisions, that leads on nicely to my next point.
- Running gives you control over the future – You create your own light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of brooding and cringing about the past and falling back in the way of self destructive habits, you find a way to break the cycle with running. Here’s how it works for me. Before I’d feel bad about something I’d said or done in the past, cringe for hours and then cover up the emotion with alcohol. This would result me in acting like an angry stupid drunk and creating more pain for myself. Nowadays I confront the negativity head on with a run and instead of amassing more negativity, I smash through previous painful memories.
- Running is great for stress management – I let stress get the better of me too much. I’ve tried to reduce it with positive affirmations, Enya, spirituality but none of them work for me. The only way that I can manage stress is to run it off. There’s nothing better than getting outside for an hour before or after work and stomping the hell out of the pavements.
- Develop pragmatic positivity with running – By this I don’t mean you become one of these awful insufferable hippy ‘I’m gonna live forever’ types. You learn that positivity can be pragmatic in pulling you through a situation, whether it’s a run that’s gone wrong or a prolonged spell in your life where you’re down on yourself.