Ever since I started running, any time anything happened, bad or good, my immediate response has been to go on a run.
Often, I go on my own, but sometimes I’ll text one of my friends “dude, we need to go on a run!” I remember one time a friend and I ran four miles after a boy had broken my heart.
I was able to express what I was feeling not just in the words I ranted to her, but also in the repetitive pounding of my feet on pavement.
There are so many examples, both mine and others, of times like this that help to show that, although not often used in clinical practice, exercise really is a therapy, and it should be more widely used alongside regular therapy.
One of the wonders of exercise is that there are so many different types, just as there are so many types of people. Everyone can find what clicks with them. For me, it’s always been running, but I know of so many more options.
One of my friends finds the most relief in hitting tennis balls against a wall, others enjoy going to the gym, swimming, biking, the list goes on and on. Michael Scott from The Office goes and dances to help him cope with not wanting to work. Anything that allows you to pound out the frustration, sadness, or other emotions, or to exert that energy in a good way.
Experts say that “the same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.”
This is why after working out you feel like you can think more clearly.
It helps the patients, or clients, deal with both mental and emotional struggles. Therapists do so much good, and there are parts of therapy that can’t be expressed with exercise, but there are many ways it is similar and can help.
Exercise releases endorphins which physiologically block pain receptors and increase positive feelings. Many runners, including myself, have experienced “runner’s high”– one of the best feelings ever. You feel on top of the world–no pain, no anxiety, just happiness… and yes you feel a little high.
There are quite a few instances of exercise being used with a variety of mental disorders, including depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. Although the effects of exercise on those suffering from schizophrenia is still being researched, the results seem promising as it seems to decrease the severity of many of their symptoms.
Everyone has their ups and downs, and exercise can help those even without emotional and mental illness–it can be the therapy some of us didn’t even know we needed. (Serve Daily submission.)