Many of us will have seen or heard people talk about how running 'keeps them sane' or that they would 'go crazy' without it. There is also scientific evidence that agrees! Running does have a positive impact on mental health.
The science says that running releases the happy hormones called endorphins, which help us feel good. I'm sure I'm not alone in completely agreeing with this! I've been a runner practically all my life, from when I started running with my dad at about the age of 8. In all the changes and life's challenges in the 31 years since, running has always been the 'thing' that has kept me moving forward.
I had a breakdown in 2014 and have had struggles with depression and anxiety since then. At times this has been debilitating and affected my work, relationships and life massively. But running has always been there, always consistent and always giving me focus. I've often said that I wish I could handle life in the same way as I do running! When I run, I am focussed, confident and feel like I can conquer anything. The feeling of being able to control my body, whether I push it to breaking point, take it slow or walk for a bit brings a sense of freedom from what can sometimes feel completely out of control if I'm anxious.
I love trail running and find this really good mentally. Having to concentrate on my surroundings so I don't fall over (although I do manage to fall over a lot as my running friends will tell you! ?) means I forget about everything else. It's also a great way of getting in touch with nature, helping with mindfulness. It's a great way of grounding yourself through the sounds, smells, sights and feel of running on different terrain.
For me running is my release, my way of calming my anxious mind and reminding myself that I am stronger than I think I am. Nothing can be more evident of that than when I was training for the London Marathon this year. It was my lifetime dream to achieve. I have never felt under so much pressure to get to a race! During those 6 months of training, there were setbacks which I found mentally tough to deal with. Suddenly running was not only helping my mental health but also putting a lot of strain on it!! But I did it! I battled through the miles, the endless winter, the doubt, the tiredness and injury and I achieved my dream. Whenever I'm feeling low about myself I will always always have that to remind me that I can.
Lastly, running has provided me with life long friendships. Best friends who share the passion of running and how it makes us feel. Friendships that mean we can run for miles and hours and either chat away or say nothing at all, but always having a connection that means we understand each other. So when life does get tough, it's those friends I turn to and they to me. So for me, running really does help me to stay mentally fit, keep putting one foot in front of the other and get out of the door when sometimes I really don't want to. It is my saviour!