When people first decide to start running, usually it’s the physical aspects of the activity that people are drawn to. They want to lose weight, get fitter and progress to perhaps running their first race. However, for me, there was more to it. Running for mental health was the reason I started.
Back in 2013 when my sister and I signed up for our first ever Race for Life 5k, we wanted to do it to get fitter, raise money and remember our Grandad while we did it. We got all dressed up in our pink t-shirts and did the route along with lots of other ladies. When we finished, Mum was there with cupcakes for us, telling us how proud she was. The feeling of achievement after that race was amazing. The buzz was addictive and mentally, I felt so much lighter and calmer. That’s when I started to jog/run on regular basis.
I joined a local running club and did Parkrun most weekends to try and beat the time that I got previously. I found that my mind was a clearer space to be in, my anxiety level reduced and I felt so much brighter after a run.
Even in the darkest times, running has been a steady coping mechanism. When the moods were swinging and the ball of anxiety in my stomach was growing, I’d lace up my trainers and get out the front door before I could change my mind. Most people have a love/hate relationship with running. Admittedly, I do, despite the fact it really helps me.
That’s why I wanted to share with you 5 ways running has helped my mental health. You might even relate to some of these things too.
1.Running gives me an outlet
Having Borderline Personality Disorder, my moods tend to be quite unstable and my emotions are so intense that I don’t know what to do with them. Getting my trainers on and running full whack up a hill or sprinting along the street, gets my blood pumping. Sometimes, if I’m feeling overwhelmed, I have a cry while I run. The action of running helps me release all the tension and the feelings in a safe and healthy way.
2.Running is stress relief
When I get stressed, I get properly stressed. I get ranty, angry, frustrated and panicked by workload and start doubting my ability to do my job/write this blog. So, my other half suggests going for a run to get me out the house and into the fresh air. Running makes me breathe deeper, rationalise better and feel strong enough to come back and deal with the problem at hand without launching anything out the window!
3.It gives me a positive focus
When I was younger, I would write angry poetry, scream along to angry music, spend too much money or drink too much (when I was old enough) in order to drown the feelings out. When I started running, I realised that I could still get those feelings out but in a positive way. It gave me a positive focus and a way of coping in a more productive and harmless way.
4.Running is a natural antidepressant
I’ve been on medication for about 10 years now and although it helps, I can’t rely solely on it. It makes me feel groggy, gives me bad RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) and has made me put on weight. But it does help. However, doing exercise naturally makes me feel better. This is because, according to CoachMag, “One of the key things running does is release this brain fertiliser called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Whenever you undertake a single bout of running you get a release of BDNF and this encourages new brain cells across key areas of the brain.
There’s also a reduction in some inflammation. People who develop mental health conditions or become stressed have an increase in peripheral inflammation. We’ve seen that running can reduce these peripheral inflammatory markers.” (Source)
5.Running unleashes creativity
By nature, I’m quite a creative person so when I can’t get into the zone or I’m in a creative block, I get quite frustrated. Going outside, into the fresh air for a walk/run helps me to think more clearly. I’ve had some really great blog ideas when I’ve been out running or walking the dog. Creativity can’t just be demanded of. It needs some TLC in a calm atmosphere for it to really appear.