How does running affect a person’s mental health?

Maksim Patrushev, a professional psychologist and marathon runner, shared with the editors of the Marathoner magazine his observations on the effect of running on mental health. Below, he considers his passion for running from the point of view of psychotherapy and highlights 7 aspects of the action of running on our mental state.

I am a professional psychologist with 10 years experience in the field. He was trained in the specialties of Gestalt psychology, body-oriented psychology, systemic family therapy, transpersonal psychology.During his work he spent more than 1000 individual consultations, more than 500 trainings, the total number of participants over 10,000 people. About 10 years ago I was reading books by Haruki Murakami. It seemed that this world-famous writer thoroughly studied all the fine strings of the human soul. Where do these plots come from? This meditative style? Is this productivity?

And recently, I stumbled upon his book “What am I talking about when I talk about running.” In it, Murakami tells us that he has been running a marathon race for about 30 years, and this helps him in the birth of plots, writing books and maintaining his life and creative powers. What a coincidence! For the last 2 years I have been running a marathon, although my main activity is psychotherapy. During this time I managed to run several marathons. And, to admit, nowhere have I met so many positive, balanced and at the same time energetic people, both at running training and at competitions. The book pushed me to the realization of my hobbies from the point of view of psychotherapy. It gave me a number of insights.

1. Endorphins

About endorphins did not hear except that lazy. They are also called “hormones of happiness.” In the course of running training, the brain generously rewards the athlete’s endorphins for their efforts. The more often you train, the longer the state of happiness lasts. As a result, the degree of satisfaction with one’s life rises, the skill of accepting others, oneself, and the situation improves. The level of aggression is reduced and relations with the world are lined up in a more positive way.

2. Unfinished action

In psychology, there is such a thing – unfinished gestalt. At one time, it was introduced by the founder of this trend, Frederick Perls. Gestalt is an emotionally meaningful, holistic event that involves many elements. Like a short film. Every person deep in his heart wears a large number of overlooked shorts, unfinished gestalts. Frederic Perls argued that the level of stress and realization directly depends on the number of unfinished gestalts. At a session of psychotherapy, gestalts complete, mentally returning the client to the past, giving the opportunity to recall and live emotions, pronounce the unspoken, complete the unfinished action.

Running the marathon distance, I noticed that I remember my life to the smallest detail. Situations emerge and dissolve in front of the inner eye, when it was scary, offensive, embarrassing, and irrevocably go along with the run.

3. Body awareness

The basic principle of the psychologist’s work is to return the client at the current moment, to “here and now”. Most people live their lives in the “head”. A large information flow rushes into our lives, imposing patterns and stereotypes, forcing us to solve endless problems. Wilhelm Reich, the founder of the body-oriented psychotherapy method, argued that the direct path from illusions to “here and now” is the awareness of your body and the relaxation of muscle clamps. One of the main centers of stress, he considered the pelvic region. It is here that important nerve centers are concentrated, which are responsible for the level of “bodily energy” in the body.

While running, direct stimulation of the pelvic area and release of vital energy occurs due to constant shock load. Look at the marathon runners. Most of them look at least 10-15 years younger.

4. Breathing

We breathe from the very first moment of appearance on this world. Any event accompanies inhalation, exhalation, or breath holding. Stanislav Grof, founder of the method of holotropic breathing, says that breathing is the key to all our experiences. Bad and good. And when the breathing rhythm becomes more frequent and deeper, then the discharge and dissolution of the negative takes place. Breathing clears our subconscious from all that is superfluous. Personally, while running, I breathe like a locomotive, and at the end of each workout a smile does not leave my face for a very long time.

5. Time structuring

Each marathon runner plans his training to achieve the result. Today is faster, tomorrow is next, the day after tomorrow is a rest. And so for a few weeks in advance. Psychoanalyst Eric Bern, the creator of scenario analysis in psychotherapy, said that the basic need of any person is the structuring of his time. Winners consciously structure their lives, losers unconsciously, obeying circumstances. The skill of setting goals, performing consecutive actions and achieving results allows the athlete to create his own winner scenario and implement it in life.

6. Competitive principle

In life, most conflicts are based on competition. Unhealthy competition destroys relationships in a professional and creative team, in the family, in business, in line, in a traffic jam, in the subway. Behind this is usually the need to increase their importance and self-esteem at the expense of another person.Thousands of athletes often take part in amateur competitions in running, with whom they can compete. Here you can realize your current level of training, win in the fight with yourself and with someone else. After such a test, a calm awareness of one’s abilities magically protects against most conflict situations.

7. The effect of meditation

In our time, it has become in the order of things to engage in meditative practices. Meditation corrects thoughts, emotions, and reduces tension in the body. From the point of view of psychophysiology, this effect is achieved, first of all, due to a special theta and gamma modes of the brain. There are many techniques to achieve this state, and, as a rule, they all begin to work after several months of practice.It is proved that while running, the brain in 20-30 minutes is immersed in this state, even for a beginner. Often during jogging come creative insights, innovative solutions to current problems, vivid emotional and spiritual experiences.

You can still talk a lot about the therapeutic effect of running on mental and physical health, success in life, but it is time for me to finish. It’s time to go running. Are you with me?

Updated: December 17, 2018 — 8:21 pm

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