Running and Mental Health: #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
It’s #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek once again! And here at The Running Bee Foundation we’re well aware of the importance of positive mental health and how having an open and honest discussion about mental health issues can not only help improve people’s lives, it can save them too.
We’re all about showing people how to #BeeActiveBeeHealthyBeeHappy and a big part of that is being happy and healthy mentally, as well as physically. However, you may be surprised to learn that there’s a link between the two.
In fact, regular exercise like running has been shown to drastically improve mental health conditions the world over. So if you find yourself struggling with your own demons, perhaps introducing more exercise into your schedule might help.
Here are just a few ways running and mental health are related, and how one can help improve the other:
Let’s get the complicated bit out of the way first…
It turns out there’s a very scientific reason as to why running and mental health are so closely related. Or, to be more specific, why running makes us feel so much better!
As we run our brain releases a very specific set of chemicals called Endorphins which are designed to perform specific functions in the body. As you’d expect, during running the brain releases endorphins related to your performance. Endorphins that aid in pain management or oxygen regulation in the body, things like that. But also the brain releases what some like to refer to as “Happy Endorphins.” The trick is in the title, but in a nutshell these endorphins help to improve our overall mood and can even reduce the symptoms of depression and anxiety.
So the next time you’re feeling particularly low, try going for a run and let your body’s natural processes help to improve your mindset and outlook.
A sense of accomplishment
We all feel better when we think we’ve achieved something. When we win a football match, or snag a lucky hand in poker, or beat a friend’s top score on their favourite video game. The list goes on.
But running helps us achieve this feeling, too. In setting a goal of running a certain amount of times a week, or running a certain distance, or pushing ourselves until we’re certain we’ve pushed as hard as we can, and then achieving this goal, will offer an amazing sense of accomplishment and is something that will work wonders in improving our mood and helping us forget our troubles.
So get out there and earn yourself a heaping-helping of accomplishment. You deserve it.
Several studies have confirmed that over half of people suffering with depression, anxiety or similar conditions also suffer from some kind of sleep issue. Whether that be a lack of sleep, disrupted sleeping patterns, full-blown insomnia or otherwise.
Whether or not the sleep issue is a symptom of the mental health condition, or whether or not it’s the actual cause, remains to be seen. What is certain is that this creates a vicious cycle that many people in this situation find inescapable:
Struggling to sleep leads to increased mental health issues, which leads to even more sleep issues, and so on.
But another reason running and mental health are so closely linked is that running actually helps improve our sleep, which improves everything else in the process. If you’re got excess energy to burn (both mental and physical) going for a good, solid run can help us expend any unwanted energy and help our body reach a state of natural tiredness. This will help us drift off in the night time when we need to most.
Being left alone with nothing but our own thoughts can be a nightmare scenario for somebody suffering with mental health issues and, while it is nice to have some time to ourselves every once in a while, regular human connection is important in maintaining a balanced mindset.
Running is one of the very best ways to not only fit in some much-needed exercise, but to be social with others as well. This is why running groups are so popular; They give us the chance to spend time with those whose company we enjoy and burn some calories at the same time.
Plus, when you run in a group you’ve got a support network ready and waiting to pick you up and help you hit your running goals, whenever they see you starting to fall behind the rest of the pack.
These are all good points, but we are merely scratching the surface of running and mental health. As we’re sure you’ll know by now, running is without question one of the most beneficial aspects of your routine. But how does running help you? We want to hear all about what running does for you personally! Let us know on social media by tagging us at @TheRunningBee
#BeeActiveBeeHealthyBeeHappy and this Mental Health Awareness Week, #BeeKind.