Does running actually make you happy?

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This article was submitted by young person, Mahida, for the International Day of Happiness 2021.

In order to try something different for International Day of Happiness, I attempted the challenge of morning runs for five days.

It’s no secret that running benefits you physically but what about mentally? Emotionally? Even pre-pandemic, I have always been the type of person to loathe at the thought of any physically taxing activity. Unsurprisingly, lockdown merely added fuel to this (lazily flickering) fire and only furthered my slump. I often find myself sluggish and lethargic which in turn has a knock-on effect on the rest of my day. So, when someone suggested trying to run as a challenge for International Day of Happiness, I decided it was time to try something new.

Why running?

Running supposedly has many factors that end up boosting an individual’s happiness. As it’s an act of physical exercise, it does release endorphins in the brain which helps increase energy and alertness. It’s usually known as ‘runner’s high’ and creates an uplifted mood during or after the run. By setting goals during your runs and tracking progress, it helps you feel very accomplished and productive. In succession, this does make running an incredible self-esteem booster. From what I imagine, happy individuals do have a great sense of self-esteem, right? Lastly, (and a personal favourite), it improves your sleep greatly.

Once I had learnt that running could impact one’s life in such a positive way, it had only felt right that I’d give it a try myself!

Day 1

The dreaded first day! Since I was a complete rookie at running, I decided to abandon the idea of running alone and asked for someone to join me. Having a running buddy did make it much less daunting and dare I say it, fun. Since you do end up trying to match the person you run alongside, it ended up motivating us to run while enjoying ourselves. We took a short route to get ourselves started as we had barely shifted from our sofas throughout lockdown and didn’t want to push ourselves too hard.

However, that is not to say there was no pushing involved. The shift from lightly jogging to running definitely gets your blood pumping and heart racing. I welcomed that adrenaline rush happily – it was a nice change from what I had become accustomed to. As it was our first attempt at running, no goal was set for the first day except to actually run instead of simply claiming to. Despite the very humble objective, I was happy to say that I was joining the likes of individuals that I often pass thinking ‘where do they get that energy from?’

Day 2

Sore. That was my first thought when I had woken up the next morning.

Muscle soreness is to be expected when running, especially new runners, but as a beginner, I figured that sitting idle may only cause further stiffness. My newfound motivation was yet to be shaken!

Today’s run was to be taken alone just to test if I was able to stay driven to run without another person to push me. I had taken a different route closer to home that allowed me a change in scenery which felt like a nice distraction. Since it was early, there was not much life to the roads that I had taken which left me to run at my own pace. The combination of blue skies and my favourite music in my ears gave a lovely sense of ‘me time’ during this run. Frazzled breathing aside, it felt peaceful.

A bright side of running early in the morning is that it truly did start my day off right. Typically, I would stay in bed for as long as possible and waste nearly half of my day and then slowly get through my tasks. As I had woken up early and was feeling highly motivated and pumped, I was almost gearing up to do as much as I possibly can. I felt as though being ‘put together’ enough to run meant I could easily do the rest of my to-do list with that same energy.

Day 3

Since a routine was now (somewhat) established, it had been a lot easier to get out of bed and start my run. My trainers were on, my playlist was ready, and I was out of the door in record time. I stuck to the route I had taken the day before since it’s always practically empty and this time set the goal of running for an hour altogether. While the goal seems intimidating in written word, I did take breaks every now and again to walk for a few minutes. As long as I kept moving in some way, my motivation to reach the end of my goal seemed attainable.

Hitting that goal did give me the incentive to go through the challenge completely. I thought that if I gave myself small goals to work towards, I could slowly find myself creating a daily habit that could take myself out of the slump that lockdown had put me in.

Day 4

The weather was forecasted to be the last day of sunshine, so I had decided to make the most of it and push myself as I was coming closer to the end of the challenge. Running had become a lot easier at this point and I had started to feel confident enough to return back to the original trail that my friend had taken me on. The only goal I had set for this particular run was to take shorter breaks.

By the end of my run, my cheeks were bright red and uncomfortably clammy. Strangely enough, I was completely fine with it and had even gone as far as snapchatting my friends evidence of my potentially new lifestyle. The tomato jokes were welcomed since I had full intention of dragging them with me post-lockdown.

Day 5

A slight spanner in the works – heavy rain. Of course, a challenge is never a challenge without… a challenge (too much?). I will be honest; I nearly skipped the last day of running after taking one look outside the window. However, after a small pep talk over how far I had come and the promise of a hot chocolate to treat myself with after, I donned slightly thicker running gear and was out of the door. Better late than never!

Running in the rain seemed like effort enough so the only goal here was to not fall in public.

Final thoughts

If you are feeling in a slump and want to try something new, I would wholeheartedly recommend running. It did help me feel more productive and refreshed which did make me feel a lot happier with myself overall. Personally, I loved running in the early hours of the day when everyone is asleep. It left me able to peacefully take in the world around me and detox myself of any worries I may have previously harboured. Bonus, it is absolutely true that your sleep improves.

Tips on getting started

  • Start slow – no need to throw yourself into the deep end! Begin jogging and then build yourself up.
  • Grab a buddy to keep yourself motivated.
  • Create incentives – if you do struggle to stick to a routine, try signing up to a charity marathon. A clear goal can help you remain focused.
  • Running apps – if you feel unsure on where to start, mobile apps such as One You Couch to 5k are available to help you get up on your feet and free!

Additional Information

If you would like to consider other methods to improve your own happiness for International Day of Happiness, mindfulness apps are brilliant to incorporate into your daily activities. Check out this article with some great suggestions to help you get started.

Want to learn more about taking care of your body and mind? Check out TheSprout’s ‘Your Body‘ Info page.

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