This World Health Day, the focus shifts to mental health and the fight against depression. There’s very little empathy for those suffering from depression, and it’s often characterized as a phase rather than a serious mental condition. This makes it challenging for those who suffers from this condition, and who are desperately looking for a way out. Much of the time, people suffering from depression overcome it by involving themselves deeply in something they like with a passion, and relying on a few people for support system.

The brain, like our kidneys, liver, and heart is an organ, and when it is unhealthy, it only makes sense to reach out to someone who is a trained professional. Over and above that exercise – in particular, running – can help a great deal. Of course, it cannot take the place of professional help, but it can become a very crucial weapon in your fight.

The number one reason for this is that your body will automatically release feel-good endorphins in the brain after 10-20 minutes of activity. This feeling called the runner’s high is well-documented through the history of running. And if you have any familiarity with the cult of running, then you would know how much runners cherish this feeling and chase for it.

Another reason that running helps in particular is that it frees you from the need for conversation, allowing you to understand your views and situation very objectively, without external factors influencing you. Obviously, this can only be beneficial when you do have a support group or a person you can talk to and allow their views to influence you. In a way, running acts as a foil for the group or personal therapy.

Join a running club (Image: Nike Running Club)
Join a running club (Image: Nike Running Club)

So clearly, if your reason for running is to get away from people and enjoy your me-time, then running does allow it. But the amazing thing about runners is that they tend to gravitate towards one-another. It could simply be something like seeing the same faces at the jogging track or a popular running route. And then there are running clubs and groups, which are immensely beneficial for new runners, runners in new cities, and also those serious about marathon competition. All these factors fill you with a feeling of camaraderie for the fellow runner.

All these reasons stem from the real-life stories of people who run, and those who have used it to conquer any number of mental issues. The focus and the feeling of being in the zone mean your brain is highly sharp and active, and this can help overtime in controlling things like rage, depression and addiction.

“Physical activity is an antidepressant, it’s an anti-anxiety. It serves to reduce anxiety, it increases self-esteem and is a major component of weight loss or weight loss management,” Dr. Kate Hays, the Canada-based sports psychologist behind the firm The Performing Edge, is quoted as saying in Buzzfeed.

“If you’re down on yourself, your body is producing all sorts of stress hormones, cortisone, that actually has the reverse effect on your body from healing,” licensed mental health counselor and sports counselor, Dr. Joan Ingalls chimed in.

Haruki Murakami running (Photograph: Patrick Fraser | Corbis Outline)
Haruki Murakami running (Photograph: Patrick Fraser | Corbis Outline)

Even famous authors have used it overcome bouts of creative droughts. World-renowned author and runner Haruki Murakami, who also wrote an entire book on running – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – had famously said “Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest.”

“Sticking to a running programme is a form of exercising self-control, and self-control is a variable linked with a number positive attributes. Good self-control helps diet-management, job success, sticking to timetables and so on. Poor self-control is associated with a large number of societal problems such as anger and violence. Self-control is improved by training. People should run – it will lead to general happiness and, because of the physiological effects, reduces a whole host of cardiovascular diseases,” Andy Lane, professor of sports psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, told Men’s Running.

The first step still remains reaching out and finding a support group or a profession who can really help you overcome it with tried-and-tested methods. But running is a great way to boost their efforts, make your mind and body fitter for another day of toil.

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