In just under seven weeks, I will be running the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon for the second time. Part of the events leading up to the Indianapolis 500 each year, the Mini-Marathon is the largest half-marathon and the fifth largest running event in the United States. It is a major event for Indianapolis, including participants from all over the world, across age brackets, and of all speeds. I have fast new shoes and I am running more days than I’m not. I obviously have running on the brain. We write about the health benefits of running frequently, but there are several mental health benefits also.
1. Run when you are feeling angry or frustrated to burn off the extra energy. Research has shown that nothing relieves stress more than physical exercise.
2. Running increases endorphins which contributes to a general sense of well-being and mood elevation, so running can make you feel better when you are sad.
3. Running is an excellent way to fight anxiety. Naturally inducing and recovering from the adrenaline response allows your body to practice recovering from physical effects of anxiety.
4. If you are feeling lonely or disillusioned with people in general, running on a local trail (like Indy’s Monon Trail, Canal Walk, or Cultural Trail) will expose you to several people enjoying the weather and/or exercising, as well as dogs and kids, and present many opportunities to enjoy and share a smile.
5. Running gives you an opportunity to experience freedom and can be the perfect escape from stressors, being inside all day, or the daily grind when you are feeling trapped.
6. You can increase your self-esteem and feel empowered by running by accomplishing goals, experiencing what your body can do, and re-defining yourself.
7. Running also gives you an opportunity to escape into your own world, tune out everything else with your iPod, refocus, and be refreshed. You may need a break from stressors or people or just to allow your brain to rest.