The Psychological Benefits of Running - Run for your mental health!

I am a restless soul, but the psychological benefits of running help me relax. When I am not consistently exercising, I don't sleep as well, and I don't seem to get as much accomplished. During a run, I am able to think through things. Running wears me out physically and mentally which helps me sleep.

Before I continue, keep in mind that I am not a doctor. If you have any serious concerns about your mental health, contact a physician or psychiatrist. Below is a list of the psychological benefits of running. If you want more detailed information on any item, keep on reading!

1. Helps with depression.
2. Builds self-esteem.
3. Assists with overcoming alcohol and drug addiction.
4. Helps with sleeping soundly.
5. Produces the famed "Runner's High."

Do you want the details on the psychological benefits of running? Fantastic! Knowledge is Power.

1. Running helps with managing depression. Going for a run won't cure you, but it can help. One of the problems with the downward cycle of depression is not feeling in control of your life. I like to say that running is "pure." In an unfair world, running is fair. Barring injury, the more or harder you run, the better you get at it. Also, I find that I can think through many problems during a run.

Doctors are increasingly prescribing running or other exercise to depression patients as an alternative to medication. When you finish a run, there is a sense of accomplishment. If you run consistently, you can lose weight and increase your overall health. These changes also help people manage depression.

2. One of the underrated psychological benefits of running is it builds self-esteem. I hold the believe that runners in general are good people. They seem to be more sincere and have a positive outlook on life. The hard work put into a run helps me realize that for almost anything, you get what you give.

Every one has at least a touch of vanity. I know I am much happier looking in the mirror after a season of coaching cross country. All the running with my athletes gets me pretty lean and mean. I just wish running helped with male pattern baldness.

3. People also use running to help overcome alcohol or drug addictions. When a recovering addict isn't using, there tends to be a void left in their life. Exercise can help fill that void. Working out becomes a "positive addiction." A huge key to recovery is to pick an exercise that a recovering addict likes, otherwise you won't stick with it. If running doesn't work, you can try many other cross training exercises.

4. The biggest benefit of running for me is better sleep. When your body is not doing any strenuous exercise during the day, your mind tends to have problems helping you sleep. My mind seems to be very active when I lie down, if I haven't ran that day. After a day when I run, my mind is much more at ease. Make sure if you run, to do it at least three hours before you would normally go to bed. It takes a while for your body and mind to calm down after strenuous exercise.

Exercise gives your body and mind a stronger pattern to follow. The daytime equals activity, and the night equals rest. Without exercise your body and mind has a hard time distinguishing when it should be active and when it should rest.

5. Running produces the famous "Runner's High." Without getting too technical, when you finish running your body naturally releases some feel good chemicals. I'll be honest. I don't get this immediate rush after a run, but I do have a much more positive attitude. Many other runners state they get a stronger buzz from their hard workouts.

Actually, I notice the "Runner's High" when I don't get the chance to run. A great example of this for me occurred after if finished a cross country season with a nagging injury. I was ordered not to run for a while in the off season. This was extremely hard for me to do. My pleasant disposition was replaces with an abrasive and cranky mood. Once I was cleared to run, I immediately started feeling better mentally and physically. It was like I was in withdrawal from running.

I hope some of these points help explain the psychological benefits of running. Remember that I am not a doctor. If you need a professional opinion, see your physician or a psychiatrist. Now, get out there and run for your physical and mental well being.

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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