Running as therapy for depression

posted in: Running | 0

There is no doubt in my mind that running can alleviate and improve many things. I’m talking mental health rather than physical here. If you suffer from depression, going for a run or brisk walk can feel impossible. Hiding under the duvet is way more preferable.

But research shows that walking  – and particularly running – can be immensely curative and make a huge difference to how you feel. Getting out the door, as usual, is the hardest part. But once you’re out, the world, for a wonderful short while, can feel like a better place.

To me it’s the hypnotic rhythm of my feet hitting the ground, the one-two-one-two, simple, even primal beat. The focus on breathing can take me out of myself and gives me a huge sense of freedom – meditative  running, which I’ve written about before in this blog is something I love. I become revitalised by the fresh air, exposure to nature and being aware of my immediate environment, that keeps me in the present moment.

Running or run/walking can be healing. If you’re lucky enough to run or walk in a relaxing, natural environment, then that too adds to the wellbeing.

Matt Haig in his wise and wonderful book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ talks of how running helped with his panic attacks, he called running ‘his depression-beating power.’ And if you do suffer from depression I urge you to read it, it’s a life-changer…actually, even if you don’t suffer from depression, read it, it’s a very positive, moving and inspiring book.

When we run or exercise, our bodies release endorphins. These are our natural antidepressants. But there’s more… running can be a social activity, it can provide purpose, a goal, improve confidence both mentally and physically and even sleep. I’ve seen it magically transform people who have been going through really difficult, stressful times in their lives, watched them come alive when they’ve claimed to be dead inside, I’ve been privileged to hear and be part of so many life-changing stories. And it’s all down to running.

On a personal level I know that if I don’t run for a while I begin to feel ‘low’ – I crave those endorphins. Which could of course be seen as verging on addiction. It probably is. But I would rather be craving a naturally caused endorphin rush than a bottle of whisky, a cigarette or pill, wouldn’t you?

Incidentally, these pictures were from my magical, meditative run the other morning. Nothing beats it.


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