Ask anybody who is a regular runner why they run, and they will likely tell you that running improves their lives and makes them happier. Sound strange that running can actually make you happier? Well, here are five reasons that it's true.
1. Physical exercise, running included, is known to release endorphins in the brain. Endorphins act as a natural "drug" that make a person more energetic, more awake and, yes, happier. The endorphins can kick in during run, after a workout or both, and are generally referred to as a "runner's high." Almost every runner experiences an elevated mood after running, and most will tell you that their moods tend to be gloomier when they don't run.
2. Running gets you into better physical shape, which, in turn, makes you feel stronger and better able to handle challenges that come your way. Being in better shape changes you not only physically, but also mentally. It makes you feel more empowered, which leads to a happier mood.
3. Running and racing allow you to set goals. People are much happier when they are working towards a goal, whether they actually achieve it or not. The act of setting a goal and actively working towards it is what seems to trigger happiness. Reaching the goal, of course, is wonderful, but it is the journey towards the goal that leads to the most happiness.
4. The running community is a very social group even though running is an individual sport. That fact might seem counterintuitive, but runners are very supportive of each other and are actually very social. Running with friends or interacting with other runners virtually can provide them with a supportive social group. Humans are generally happier (especially women) when they feel strong social connections. This idea does not mean that runners need to have a large social group, but rather a handful of good running buddies is enough to make them feel connected and, therefore, happier.
5. Finally, running improves your self-esteem. Increasing endorphins, getting in better shape, working towards a goal and increasing social connections all work together to increase your overall self-esteem. Increased self-esteem leads you to be happier. Think about it. Have you ever met a truly happy person who didn't have high self-esteem? I doubt it.
So pull your running shoes on now and head out for a run. Your increased happiness is waiting for you.race.