The Challenge Of Mindfulness
For some, mindfulness exercises like yoga might be more challenging than walking on hot coals. Mindful running is a growing exercise that might offer an alternative to the hot coals but still promote mindfulness.
Mindful running involves more than lush scenery or pumping natural sounds through your earphones. The common theme between other mindfulness practices and mindful running is… being present.
Being Present For Mindful Running
Many runners find themselves running away from something (e.g., hard day at work) while others are running toward something (e.g., training for a race). Mindful running is just running. Instead of searching for external motivation like a song or a timing metric, the runner connects internally.
The connection begins even before the run with exercises to clear the mind. This might be 5 minutes or could be 30 minutes, depending on person. The point is to leave work stresses at the door… they will still be there after the run. Don’t obsess on beating yesterday’s time… just run.
As the runner clears his or her mind, the focus can move inward. Enjoying each breath. The feel of each part of the foot as it reaches the ground. Great athletes engage not only physical prowess but also their full mental awareness and concentration. This is the stage set with mindful running.
Mindful Running Aids Mental Health
Mindful running comes under the larger umbrella of Mental and Physical (MAP) training. Appreciating that mindfulness is good for mental health and physical activity is good for mental health, researchers wanted to know what a combined program would do. The results were very positive:
“Participants with MDD also exhibited a significant decrease in self-reported ruminative thoughts, which typically involve repetitive thinking about autobiographical memories and negatively valenced content from the past. Along with these positive changes in psychological outcomes, significant increases in synchronized neural activity were found following MAP training.”
The same study also pointed out that psychotropic medications may not be as effective as once thought. Mindful running, however, demonstrated greater effectiveness and no / insignificant adverse events. This may inspire even more providers and people who suffer modern lifestyle stresses to try mindful running before psychotropic drugs.
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