by Tom O'Grady
Running is My Therapy – Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits, and Live Longer
Scott Douglas is a veteran runner and writer who has written about running for Runner’s World and Running Times. Douglas has also authored and coauthored books about running and surpassed 100,000 lifetime running miles. It’s safe to say Scott Douglas has spent a fair amount of his life either running or thinking about running. Douglas has also grappled with bouts of depression throughout his adult life and running has been a welcome complement to cognitive behavioral therapy and medication in the battle against depression. If you have ever wondered why running was so great at stress relief and helped relieve the struggles associated with anxiety and depression, Douglas has written extensively about the topic in the book, Running is My Therapy.
There are many reasons why people start running. Some people start running early in their life because a physical education teacher notices their potential and recommends them to the cross country or track and field coach. Others start running a little later in life to stay fit while starting a career or starting a family. Most people continue to run because it makes them feel good. Have you ever wondered how running helps your brain? Douglas explores these areas in Running is My Therapy. It turns out running helps with concentration and memory. The positive benefits of running on your brain are just as profound as the positive benefits of running on your body.
Douglas goes on to discuss depression and anxiety in the context of running. He provides many eye-opening statistics. It turns out that depression and anxiety are very prevalent in the United States. In any given year, up to 30 million people or more may experience an episode of depression or anxiety. The prevalence of depression and anxiety can vary depending on many things, including a person’s age, family history, and a variety of underlying sociodemographic factors. In the northeast, mental health conditions related to depression and anxiety may be more prevalent in the winter due to the decreased periods of daytime. Other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic can cause increases in mental health conditions related to depression and anxiety. Even though depression and anxiety are common it can still be difficult for people to discuss these topics, recognize they are struggling with the conditions, and to seek help. Douglas makes a case for running as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Sometimes running alone is not enough to help someone who is struggling but running can complement both cognitive behavioral therapy and medication.
How many times have you checked your phone today? How many times have you checked your social media accounts? We are living through a period when technology can easily distract us and redirect our attention. Running can help with mindfulness, which at its core encourages an individual to observe a thought without judgment; to accept a thought rather than challenge it. It turns out mindfulness has positive benefits on our mental health and Douglas explores this further. The book goes into more details and is worth putting your phone down in order to read. One of the more humorous headings of the book may be: Running is far from mindless. I’ve been asked many times what I think about while I run. Most people think running is kind of mindless, but the truth is that running is a great time to work through your thoughts. Whether you think about work, relationships, training goals, world events, or just let your mind run (PUN intended) – running is a great way to work through your thoughts.
Running is also a great way to make social connections, find meaningful pursuits, and generally live a healthy lifestyle. Although the specifics will vary for each person, the benefits are well established. Running is My Therapy is a great book because it provides context for the multitude of positive ways that running affects so many people’s lives. Whether you are a beginner or a veteran, I’m sure that if you lace up your sneakers and go for a run you will feel better upon returning than when you left. I’m also sure that reading Running is My Therapy will be a way to gain insight into WHY running makes you feel better.
Reviewer Tom O’Grady is a successful runner, coach,
writer and college professor with a joint appointment at NYSDOH/UAlbany School of Public Health. Click on his picture to read all that he has written for the
Pace Setter ... and it is a lot!
Thank you Tom!