Running Towards Mindfulness: How Movement Can Ease Anxiety and Depression

Coach Janelle

As an expert running and athletic mindset coach, I've seen firsthand the transformative power that running and mindfulness can have on mental health. Specifically, for individuals experiencing anxiety and depression, the blend of physical movement and mindful techniques can pave the way towards a healthier mental state.

Research continues to underscore the benefits of regular exercise for mental health. Running, in particular, can be a potent tool in managing anxiety and depression. But how does it work?

Running for Mental Health

The Mind-Body Connection

Ever heard of the mind-body connection? That is because the two are intricately linked, and whence is stimulation, the other is inevitably impacted. Running is more than just a physical activity; it's a holistic experience that involves the body, mind, and even our emotions. I know, I know, sounds a little too hokey doesn’t it? Bear with me here…

As you run, your body releases endorphins - chemicals that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. This is what we often refer to as a 'runner's high' and it can alleviate symptoms of depression and induce feelings of happiness and relaxation. Pretty neat right? Keep reading. The rhythmic, repetitive nature of running can also have a calming, meditative effect, which can help mitigate anxiety. 

However, to maximize these benefits, it's crucial to pair physical activity with mindfulness, bringing your attention fully into the present moment.

Mindfulness: A Powerful Ally

Most people thing mindfulness and meditation refers to the act of completely learning the mind and sitting still in the silence. Mindfulness is actually the practice of drawing your attention to the present moment and accepting it and your thoughts without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can learn to break free from the common patterns of overthinking and judging our actions and thoughts that often lead to anxiety and depression.

Meditation and running

Here's a simple mindfulness exercise that I often recommend, which can be done anywhere, anytime:

1. Begin by focusing on your breath. Notice the sensation of the air entering and leaving your body. Do this for a few minutes.

2. Shift your attention to the sounds around you. Don't judge or analyze them, just observe.

3. Next, bring your focus to the physical sensations: the ground beneath you, the temperature of the air, the feel of your clothes against your skin.

4. Turn your attention inward to your thoughts. Watch them come and go without getting caught up in them. Observe without judgement.

5. Finally, bring your focus back to your breath for a few more minutes.

When paired with running, this mindfulness exercise can be incredibly impactful. As you run, use each step as a prompt to remain in the present moment. Focus on your breath, the sensation of your feet pounding the pavement, the wind against your skin. Notice the sounds of nature or the city around you. When thoughts or worries arise, acknowledge them, and then let them go.

Through the integration of running and mindfulness, you can cultivate a healthy mindset that helps manage symptoms of anxiety and depression. This isn't a quick fix, but rather a lifelong journey towards mental wellness.

Motivated In Motion Running Community

The Power of Community

When battling anxiety and/or depression, we may feel inclined to isolate ourselves. If you are currently struggling, being part of a community is most likely the last thing you want to do, but this is where the supportive running community can be particularly beneficial. The shared experiences and camaraderie among runners can provide a much-needed sense of belonging in these times of great need. 

The running community is diverse and welcoming, filled with individuals who share common goals and challenges. You might even be surprised by how many have been in similar situations that you might also be going through. This sense of connection can significantly reduce feelings of isolation that often accompany mental health challenges.

Whether it's joining a local running group, participating in races, or sharing your running journey on social media, becoming part of the running community can greatly support your mental health journey. Remember, running towards mindfulness isn't a solitary endeavour - it's a collective journey, a shared path towards better mental health, one step at a time.

If you’re looking to join a community of supportive and inclusive runners, feel free to send us a DM or E-mail. We’d love to connect. 

Lastly, its important to remember that it’s always okay to seek help, and combining these techniques with professional mental health support can be highly beneficial. It's all about taking that first step, both literally and figuratively, towards a healthier, happier you. You are not alone. <3

Online Run coach Janelle

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