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Running Is Good for Your Mental Health: Runner's High

If you've ever been on a run and experienced an intensely happy feeling, you were experiencing what many call a runner's high. It's the point during your run when you feel great and seem to be performing at optimal levels of speed and endurance. Runners have touted the great feeling of this high for years, and researchers have spent time trying to figure out exactly what causes this feeling of euphoria. For years it was assumed that endorphins were the cause of this high, but science hadn't yet come up with the methods to prove it. Now scientists know exactly what causes the euphoric feeling and how it benefits runners mentally. Both men and women experience it, and both agree that it's a feeling you want again and again, making running a popular form of exercise.

What Happens When You Experience a Runner's High?

According to CharacterStudies.net, as you begin to run, your heart starts pumping harder and pushing blood through your body at a faster rate. Your respiratory system starts working harder and you mentally prepare yourself for vigorous exercise. As you continue to push yourself to go harder and faster, your body starts releasing endorphins. These hormones act like a stimulant on the body, resulting in what many call a natural high. Researchers have found that the endorphins released while running actually attach themselves to parts of the brain responsible for emotion. The more endorphins released, the stronger the feeling of euphoria.

Because these hormones stimulate such a strong response within the body, some runners don't even notice pain during a runner's high. Runners have noticed fractures, sprains, and even chest pain only after the runner's high wears off. This may be because the release of hormones triggers what's known as a second wind, and a runner that was previously tired or feeling pain is now excited, happy, and willing to keep running.

How Running Affects Your Mental Health

It's obvious that taking advantage of the runner's high has a number of mental health benefits. People who experience this euphoric feeling while running report being totally relaxed, happy, energetic, and satisfied with themselves. Running also releases serotonin, which is a natural mood lifter. If you struggle with depression, stress, or lethargy, running is a great way to naturally lift your spirits and release all of the negative energies associated with feelings of sadness.

Mental benefits unrelated to chemical releases within the body include a sense of freedom when running, the ability to make a different circle of friends by joining a running club, and improving your overall appearance and fitness levels which aids in building confidence. Runners who network and increase their social contacts receive greater mental health benefits than those who run independently. A support system is always beneficial and can help increase feelings of self-worth and importance. While experiencing the runner's high is one of the best ways to feel happy and relaxed, running provides a number of mental health benefits that can seep into your everyday life.

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