Does Running Help You to Be More Mindful?

Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises you can engage in, and it doesn’t require expensive gym memberships or investments in any sort of special equipment; but while the positive physical effects of regular running are well recognized, many tend to overlook the meaningful impact that running can have on your mental and emotional health. A new trend thought of as “mindful running” draws elements of meditation into the exercise, and there are some strong indications that it can have a direct impact on the lives of participants. A 2016 psychological study showed a 40% decrease in signs of depression among patients who combine meditation and running together into a single exercise routine. While it may seem obvious, mindful running can make you more mindful and more in touch with both your surroundings.

The reason that running is such an effective means of improving your mental health is because it’s an intense cardiovascular exercise. These sorts of exercises accelerate the flow of your blood. As a result, your brain receives more blood than it normally would, and that both clears up the muddled processes in your brain and boosts mood-elevating neurological compounds. If you feel healthier and more tranquil after a run, that’s because your body is essentially encouraging you for your behavior.

This combination of increased blood flow and natural chemical incentives can have a number of different lasting effects. Confidence is one of the main advantages that come from running. Rather than force participants to engage in competition against other people as is usually the case with team sports, running tasks the athlete with challenging themselves. Since runners set distinct goals for themselves rather than having objectives established by arbitrary sets of rules, they get the satisfaction of challenging themselves without the sense of failure that comes from missing the bar for overly high expectations.

These same self-structured goals can help condition your mind to think in a more orderly fashion as well. There’s something wonderfully discreet about running. Each new hill to climb or each new lap to pass is a distinct objective, but they form together into a larger patchwork of objectives, both in terms of how long you intend to run on each outing and what your plans are for the future. When individuals begin to think like runners, it makes it easier for them to split up the challenges in their daily lives into more manageable components.

Finally, there’s something of a zen-like state that comes from a run. Long distance runs are particularly good for this, as they give you the opportunity to put aside your electronic devices and worries about your work and personal life for a given period of time. These long stretches of solitude are a great way to think about your life in less distracting circumstances, and they can also be an opportunity to work off undue stress and elevate your mood.