Running with Emotions
One of the most beautiful things about running is that anyone with two legs can do it. It isn’t very complex when you break it down. Running is just walking, but faster. You don’t need a gym membership, equipment, or a team. Heck, you don’t even need shoes. With the gift of legs and a beautiful earth to explore, practically anyone can pick up this great sport.
Running is simple, right? Well, yes and no.
The concept is simple enough: Just put one foot in front of the other and try not to fall down. However, any runner knows that things can quickly get complicated. Back pain, foot pain, knee pain and more can all but end your running career. No, you don’t need $100 Lululemon tights to go running, but you might think you do. Oh, and the marathon you want to run? That will cost more than those tights. The list goes on. Weather, equipment, competitions, and relationships all add up to make running more complicated than expected.
Dealing with emotions in your personal running universe can be the most complicated of all your running obstacles. From coping with injuries, to dealing with teammates, running can take a toll on your psychological wellbeing just as much as your physical wellbeing. Guy Winch, author of “Emotional First Aid,” is an expert in the field of psychology. Read or listen along as he answers several questions about dealing with emotions as a runner.
Run for your Heart, Literally and Figuratively
Cardiovascular exercise is obviously good for your heart. Doctors recommend completing 30-40 minutes of increased heart rate activity 4-5 times a week. However, running is also great for your mental health. Studies show that taking antidepressant medication and participating in consistent cardiovascular exercise produce similar benefits. One striking difference between the two is that the effects of medications taken in the same dosages tend to fade after a few years while the benefits of exercise remain the same.
If you live with any type of mental health condition or simply want to improve your mental health, consider running. “If you don’t like medication, if you don’t want to do other things, just do that!” says Guy Winch, “Find the sport that works best for you, but find one!”
Dealing with Humans
Consistently running is a sure way to reduce stress and depression, but it won’t get rid of all your emotional challenges. If you have an unresolved problem with a teammate or a running friend, there are two simple suggestions Guy gives when approaching them.
(1) Ask yourself, “What do I want to get out of this?” If you don’t focus on what you want to get out of the discussion, your conversation can quickly turn into a complaining or blaming party. Knowing why you are bringing up an issue will focus your conversation on the things that matter.
(2) “The Positivity Sandwich.” Make sure that whatever you say is surrounded by positivity. Open with a compliment, be short and direct about the issue, and end with another compliment. Using these two simple techniques will make a world of a difference when communicating with others.
Participating in social media is another way to improve mental health. But there is a HUGE caveat. Dr. Winch emphasizes the difference between using social media passively and actively. “It’s a tool, and it depends on how you use that tool and when you use that tool,” says Guy, “When we are feeling bad…and we look in a passive way at other people’s feeds, what we see is everyone around us being happy, and we’re not. And that will make us feel worse.”
Active use of social media can be very beneficial. When we use it as a tool to interact with others by commenting and sending messages, we take away the passive, depressing action of endless scrolling. Send pictures, emoticons, and messages to friends to connect and remember good times. Above all though, Guy tells us not to let social media replace our relationships. Even if it’s just a phone call, reaching out to friends and family is important in sustaining good relationships and mental health.
Smile, Cry, and Celebrate!
One of the best pieces of advice that Guy Winch gives is to give yourself time to mourn and time to celebrate. When you don’t get a result you were hoping for, it’s okay to let yourself be sad. But only for a moment. “You get to feel really bad,” says Guy, “but only for a limited amount of time.” Give yourself an hour for something small and a day for something big. “Then you have to pivot to the comeback. Now it’s about using that as fuel, as motivation. You need to express the bad stuff, but you shouldn’t wallow in it.”
If you give yourself time to be sad, then you should also give yourself time to be happy. Guy recommends celebrating victories and sharing with your friends without feeling guilty. “Make a meal of the milestones,” he says “They are hard earned. Find a way to truly enjoy them.”
So, run. Run with emotions. Run to stay mentally strong. Let yourself be miserable when you come up short and celebrate when you do well. Share with others, celebrate their victories, and you will feel better than ever.
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