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Running Highs and Lows: Can running make you feel good?

Once you’ve pushed past those hellish first minutes, running can actually make you feel pretty good. It can put you in a better headspace after one of those days, keep you fit, and even connect you to your community. Whether you’re a keen runner, or a fan of the gentle jog – here’s CALM’s deep dive into what running can do for your head. 

People often talk about the physical benefits of working up a sweat, but running comes with loads of benefits for our brains that aren’t always shouted about. A study showed that out of 14,000 runners, 82% said that running helped them to clear their mind, and 78% said it helped them to feel more in control. We asked trailrunner and running coach Maggie Dempsey why she champions this form of exercise:

“When I started running, I realised that wanting to do more for yourself isn’t a selfish act. It’s actually a very good thing because it gives you purpose in life. It’s also really great for your mental wellbeing because when you run the endorphins help you feel more relaxed and that can help you express how you feel more easily. 

“Often what brings people back to running is the fact it offers a comfortable place where no one judges you. Everyone has their own story and everyone is on their own journey. When you speak to other runners and realise that, it can bring people together and allow them to process how they’re feeling.”

While dragging ourselves out of the house for a run can feel challenging sometimes (rainy day runners we salute you!), it can really be worth the initial push. If you held back a yawn when your mate was showing you their Strava profile, or barfed at people bragging about their 20 mile runs on social media, stick with us. Our no BS guide to running looks at everything from runner’s high, to improved focus and mood – here’s why you might want to take a leaf out of Usain Bolt’s book. 

Sprint out your stresses 

When every day pressures mount up, it can be really hard to relax, but running is a great stress-buster and it’s no coincidence that people often feel happier post-jog. 

We’re not going to bore you with a science lesson, but when we’re angsty or uptight, our bodies release stress hormones like cortisol or adrenaline – this is known as a fight-or-flight response. While these hormones are useful in survival situations, like when we were cave people and had to fight off big, scary bears, they’re also triggered by things in modern life that might not pose a threat to our life, but still worry us. When our fight-or-flight goes into overdrive and we don’t follow it up with a burst of physical activity, it can leave us feeling on edge and generally shitty. That’s where exercise comes in. 

Next time you’re seeing red, you could try running off your rage. Stepping out for a quick jog can make a world of difference. It uses up nervous energy, breaks down stress hormones and also helps us release feel-good endorphins that can put us in a more positive frame of mind.  

Make pals on the pavement

Running collectives offer a chance to connect with like minded people, making running seem a little less intimidating, and guess what, CALM has their very own.

It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your running journey, connecting with the community can make it all the more bearable. The CALM Running Collective isn’t about the fastest times or fancy kit, it’s about getting together to feel good. Not only that, but you’ll find loads of no-nonsense tips on making the most of jogs, and encouragement when you’re lacking motivation, because let’s face it, we all have days where we need an extra push.

Unplug for a while

It’s hard to doomscroll when you’re focusing on not tripping up curbs. Running offers a chance to switch off from the news, unplug from social media and get outside in the fresh air. 

If you’ve ever found yourself losing time to tech, then getting out for a jog can be the perfect excuse to step away from screens. Many of us can relate to that feeling of being bombarded by the ping of notifications, but when we’re running our focus is on the road ahead and not on our tech. Of course, a banging playlist can make all the difference to a run, so cue the tunes then pop the old blower on Do Not Disturb. 

Return focus with runfulness 

Wondering what the hell runfulness is? We only just learnt about it too. 

When we’re worrying, our minds tend to be in the past or future. Runfulness, like mindfulness, is about using your run to be more present. Okay we know it sounds a bit wanky, but before you zone out, let’s look at why people are banging on about this stuff. 

Whether we’re out for a hike or a jog, our focus is on putting one foot in front of the other, on our surroundings and our feet rhythmically hitting the pavement – all stuff that can induce a kind of flow state that works a bit like meditation, helping us to step away from worries and refresh our mindset. Don’t fret, we’re not going to start drinking kale juice and sharing motivational quotes, but anything that can make running more enjoyable is worth a shot, isn’t it? 

Running can do wonders for your mental wellbeing, so if all this running talk is making you want to jump into your trainers and hit the pavement, why not do it for a good cause?  We still have places for the ASICS London 10K in July and the Great North Run in September, and you can also keep an eye out for events here.

Doing your own running route to raise some cash for CALM’s life-saving services? Tell us about it here

If you need to talk we’re here to lend a listening ear, no matter what. Our free, confidential helpline and webchat service is run by a trained team and is open every day from 5pm until midnight.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article or in the comments below, are not those held by CALM or its Trustees unless stated, and liability cannot be accepted for such comments. We encourage friendly and constructive debate, but please don't share personal contact details when commenting and exercise caution when considering any advice offered by others. We don’t allow abusive, offensive or inappropriate comments or comments that could be interpreted as libellous, defamatory or commercial and we will remove these without warning as and when we find them.

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