I will admit that it’s somewhat of an obsession for me. If I don’t get my daily run in, part of me just feels incomplete or as though something in life is missing.
When I first started running, I did it for the same reason why so many others do so, for the physical exercise. I was slightly overweight, I felt severely out of shape, and I had just started my battle with depression. Going up a flight of stairs had become a challenge, and overall, I just didn’t feel good about my health or about the person I was looking at in the mirror.
As I started to get more into running, I began to feel stronger. Not just from a physical standpoint, but from a mental standpoint as well. I would constantly push myself to run farther distances without stopping until I was able to run a full mile without any breaks.
A mile may not seem like much, but at the time, it was a large accomplishment for me.
Then I started to time myself and the clock became the thing to beat. Every day had brought new challenges and mental roadblocks that I had to overcome, and the more I overcame these mental roadblocks, the better I began to feel.
The Negative Aspects of Running
Now, this isn’t to say that running is going to be a “cure-all.” As we all know, everything in life requires balance. While running can be good for our physical and mental health, it can also be damaging, and this was something that I had to learn the hard way.
As with any obsession, running can take over your life, your mind, and how you see the world in front of you.
Personally speaking, I used to see running as a way to burn calories and to get in shape. I didn’t feel I could eat if I didn’t go for my daily run because I hadn’t burned off any calories and feared that I was instantly going to gain back the weight I had worked so hard to lose.
If my family or friends were going out to dinner, I would have to run extra miles to compensate for eating unhealthy foods. If I ate too many unhealthy foods, I would go on long runs afterwards to try and burn it off.
In the end, as beneficial as running has been for my mental health, it has also played a role in the battles that I used to experience on a daily basis. Much like my fight with food, running had become an obsession that began to negatively impact my mental health.
Not only were there times where I passed out after runs because I was not feeding myself appropriately, but the mental games that were continuously going on in my mind were crippling and felt as though they were never going to end.
Reaching A Breaking Point
There is no clear cut answer as to how or when I started to see running in a different light. I remember asking my mom how she had overcome her obsession with running, and she used to tell me that she didn’t know either. She believes that everybody just reaches a breaking point in which they realize it’s simply not worth it any longer to allow something to control you.
There was something freeing and liberating in what she said. I had spent much of my time trying to find the perfect answer as to how I would be able to overcome my obsession with running, that I had simply forgotten to just go with the flow.
Once I was able to find that sense of stillness and calm in my mind, I was then able to remember why I started running in the first place. It wasn’t so that I could go out to eat without feeling guilty or so that I could finally see my abs. It was so that I could get back to living a healthier and happier life.
Running is meant to be enjoyed, and the more we try to force ourselves to do it, the less of a joy and more of a chore it becomes.
How Running Has Improved My Mental Health
I want to be clear and say that I still do run on a daily basis. Does part of me still feel incomplete if I don’t get my daily run in? A little bit. But it’s for different reasons.
While I used to run for the sole purpose of losing weight and being as skinny as possible, I now run for the sense of mental clarity that it provides for me.
Over the last month, I have been living and working remotely in the mountains of Utah. Every morning, I wake up, throw on my shoes, and go for a run before the sun comes up.
Admittingly, it’s been a nice change of pace from my usual runs. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and as I get deeper into the run, I get to see the sun start to shine over the mountain peaks.
Even when I am not running in the mountains, running has simply been a good way for me to get outside, to inhale the fresh air, and to almost feel one with the world around me. There is just a feeling that I get when I am running that allows me to see the world and life much more clearly.
Benefits Of Running
There are so many benefits to running, both from a physical and mental perspective. Here are three major ways running has impacted my life.
1. It has helped to improve my physical health. Running is probably the best form of aerobic exercise out there, and as we all know, aerobic exercise is good for our heart health.
The more we run, the stronger and healthier our hearts tend to be. Not only that, but running also helps to lower high blood pressure and reduce the risk of stroke or any other disease that is related to obesity.
Obviously, everything needs to be done in moderation, but research shows that those who run an average of 40-miles per week have some of the strongest and healthiest hearts. I think I’m safe now as I am only running an average of 25 miles per week.
2. In the long run (no pun intended), running has helped to improve my mental health. I feel happier and less stressed when I am running. To be honest, I feel this way with any form of exercise, but especially with running.
Stress can actually cause a lot of health concerns – both mental and physical. But when you run, you are basically forcing your body to release dopamine, which is also known as the feel-good chemical of the brain. When your body releases dopamine, you naturally feel happier and less stressed.
Aside from stress, running also helps to improve your self-confidence (again, to an extent). It helps you to get in shape and to lose some unwanted body fat, which can help you to feel better about your image.
3. Running has helped me find a sense of clarity and stillness in my life. At least this has been the case for me. It gives me a chance to break away from reality and the everyday stresses that constantly run through my mind, and it essentially allows me to become one with my thoughts. I feel as though I am able to focus solely on the thoughts that are passing through my mind in the present moment, and that has helped me to find a sense of stillness and clarity in life.
Before You Go
Overall, running has played a HUGE role in my mental health. When it was an obsession of mine, it negatively impacted my mental health. When I was able to find a sense of balance, it positively impacted my mental health.
I guess that’s the point that I’m trying to make. Everything in life needs balance. No matter how healthy something may be perceived as, whether it’s a healthy diet or even exercising, too much of anything can be damaging to our health.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, cherished, and lived. It’s hard to live life to the fullest when you are obsessing over every controllable aspect of life, which is why you need to find balance. Running helped me to realize that and it has helped me to implement that into other areas of my life as well.
That’s what running has done for my mental health,, and I am beyond grateful that it has taught me the lessons that it has.