Can Running Cure Depression?

There's a lot of talk about mental illness in our culture right now, which is awesome. Finally, we can kind of talk about it, try to get over a stigma that's been surrounding mental health for such a long time. We still have a ways to go. But it's awesome that we're beginning that conversation and trying to get out there.
Can Running Cure Depression?

There's a lot of talk about mental illness in our culture right now, which is awesome. Finally, we can kind of talk about it, try to get over a stigma that's been surrounding mental health for such a long time. We still have a ways to go. But it's awesome that we're beginning that conversation and trying to get out there.

So, as you may know, if you’ve spent any time with me, this is a show called Runner's High, we probably both love running. And because we love running and we hear these stories from friends or friends of friends about how running helped their depression, we want to know can running actually cure depression.

As I said before, this is a show called Runner’s High. I'm your host, Jesse Funk. If you want more videos on how to run, be a better runner, all these kinds of topics, subscribe to the channel, hit that button right over there, bottom right-hand corner. So, if you don't have friends that have said something about, I'm depressed and running made me feel better.

And you don't know anybody, you may have seen these on running forums. Whether you're on the Running Subreddit, or you're on Slowtwitch or wherever you are, you've probably seen somebody mentioned this from time to time.

The problem is, we don't know whether that person is talking about I have clinical depression, or I'm depressed. And the difference here is really our use of the word depressed in our culture, right? When you're sad, you can say I'm depressed. But that doesn't necessarily mean you are clinically depressed, which is a diagnosable condition. A while back, I spoke with Mike Haggadone on the Smart Athlete Podcast. It's my other show that I do here besides Runner's High on the channel. And we talked about therapy versus therapeutic when it comes to running. Mike has had his own struggles with mental illness over time.

And we talked about that, in my interview with him. If you want to see that full interview, stay to the end, I will link to it, it'll be on the screen. But we talked about the definition between therapy and therapeutic. He is a runner as well. And we see this again, all over the place that say running is my therapy.

Well, we contend, and I agree with Mike that running is therapeutic, not necessarily therapy. We all experience sadness in our lives from time to time, even sometimes profound sadness. And I wish there was some easier way to say this, we assign that word depression to it when really, I wish we could reserve that for the clinical case, so that we can be clearer and not so ambiguous about what's going on.

But that profound sadness sometimes happens with a loss, a loss of life, a loss of a relationship, a loss of a job, a loss of a dream, a loss of hope. But that's not necessarily what clinical depression is when there's a chemical imbalance going on in your brain. Something that you can't regulate, that you have no control over.

Now you don't necessarily have control over that profound sadness and that grief, either. But it isn't necessarily caused by that imbalance in the brain, at least from what we know right now. So, what we do know is that when we go run, that's going to elevate our moods. And that can be a great pick me up, when we're feeling that profound sadness. It helps give us at least a moment of relief.

In those times of struggle, where we don't know where the light at the end of the tunnel is, we just feel darkness around us or that grief, from whatever loss or thing we've experienced is. And running itself can actually be a great addition to actual therapy with people that have depression. But when we're talking about depression itself, running is not necessarily a cure. I should say just isn't a cure, it doesn't cure it.

Because depression, at least as we want to diagnose it in the DSM, is something that is going to need to be treated with therapy, and often with some kind of medication to help you relieve those symptoms because of the lack of those chemicals in your brain, which I mentioned previously.

I have to interrupt myself just for one second. I'll get back to my last thought here in a second before I finished filming, I forgot to mention that if you want a really great story about dealing with mental illness running all the implications therein, please check out Matt Fitzgerald's book, Life is a Marathon.

Matt is one of the best authors in the running space. So, if you want a story, a true story of him in His love for his wife, the mental illness that his wife struggle with, and how running kind of plays a part in his life, their lives, all of that, please check out his memoir, Life is a Marathon.

Back to my last thought, and then on to the end of the episode. Anytime we're talking about depression, it's best really to see somebody that's certified. And I say that often on this channel when things get beyond me. Because there's a point when you need to see somebody who's qualified, whether that's in the case of depression, or you have a stress fracture.

These are illnesses which I'm simply not certified to help you with. I had thoughts of going down that path and becoming a counselor or a clinician at one point in time. But I didn't take that path in life so I'm not qualified to help you. You do have to remember that treatment for depression is often very individualized and that goes with the medication and treatment of therapy, all those kinds of things. That's why you need a professional to help you.

I'm sure that they will probably say, if you want to run, that's an awesome thing to help along with it. But I also know that when people are depressed, and if that's you, sometimes you just have trouble getting out of bed, let alone getting out and going for a run. And this happens to a wide spectrum of performance levels, anybody from the top performers to the bottom performers.

Times have nothing to do with how this affects people. It affects everybody really, equally, poorly, but equally, and I love you. I know I don't necessarily know you, but I want you to do well. So, please, if you feel this way, go see somebody get some help. It's going to make you better, in the long run, both have a better quality of life and be a better runner if that's important to you.

Now, after you’ve done that, please come back, share your story or if you want to share your story now, please leave it in the comments below. I'd love to hear from you. And I think it's great as a community if we can talk about these things in an honest fashion. So, please, please, please leave that in the comment below.

Let me know how are you doing? How are things gone for you? Have you made progress? Are you still struggling? I really want to know. So, as mentioned earlier, if you want to see that interview I had with Mike when we talked about mental illness, struggles, running, therapy versus therapeutic; that should be coming up on the screen now. So, click that, go check out that interview. And I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.

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