Updated: Apr 28
Running and Spiritual Health
Running is invigorating. Running is spiritual. Running is motivating. Running is freeing. But above all, running is brutal. It has the capacity to tear you down to your raw bones. And that's what makes it worthwhile. Am I crazy? Maybe. But what if I'm not?
Runner's High, Mania High and That Other High
If you ask me, out of all these three highs, I prefer the runner's high. It is the hardest one to have but definitely the most worthwhile. It's a challenging high because you have to elicit the emotion. For one thing, you actually have to do work and run to feel elated.
I've experienced the mania high more than I care to count and alhumdulillah I've kept myself pretty sheltered with good company to stay away from that other high of illegal drugs and alcohol.
Many of us seek highs, if not through running then through fulfilling our passions and desires. This drive to feel elated can be to our betterment or determent. When we have a hunger to to do meaningful work or have meaningful relationships, then our life is fulfilling. However, when our energy is directed towards base pursuits, things that are harmful to our physical, mental, spiritual health, then the high actually turns in to a low and even a down fall. Having the correct self-awareness, insight and company is crucial to fostering a life of healthy highs.
Your Body is a Blessing. It's Your Job to Take Care of It
I you don't actively derive energy from your passions, your pain and hardships can consume you. In other words, the challenges of this life can suck the life out of you. You need an escape. That escape for me is running. Doing this activity is a way closer to Allah. You are taking care of your body that your Lord blessed you with.
What is your passion? What is your escape? What is the moment in your day where you can feel at peace? What is the one hobby or recreational activity that can bring you closer to Allah?
Running or aerobic is one of the best things we can do for mental health. David Linden, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says that a "runner's high" is actually very rare. Yes, I'm eating my own word. He says,
"Exercise increases the levels of endocannabinoids in the bloodstream, Linden explains. Unlike endorphins, endocannabinoids can move easily through the cellular barrier separating the bloodstream from the brain, where these mood-improving neuromodulators promote short-term psychoactive effects such as reduced anxiety and feelings of calm."
I must say when I took up running, I was inspired by Fauja Singh's story. He started jogging to deal with the grief of his son's death. At the age of 89, he started running seriously and became famous when he completed the London Marathon and beat the record for world's best in the 90 plus section.
His story is inspiring because it shows you can take up running at any age. But more importantly, Singh use running as a way to deal with the loss of his son. In this way, running became more than just an activity or sport. He raised it to a level of a therapeutic tool. I can't say if the thumping on the pavement with one foot after the other was spiritual for him for I've never met him but there's no denying that it meant more to him as it helped him deal with a tragedy.
In this way, running can help someone deal with mental health challenges.
Maybe Running Ain't Your Thing
Just because running is spiritual for some doesn't mean it'll be for you. In this case, find your own spiritual activity besides the ritualistic actions we perform such as salah, adhkar and fasting. Experiment my friend and find your own thing you will.
Schedule in Your Spiritual Health
When something is important, you schedule it in. You put it on your calendar. So make sure to schedule in your spiritual activity. Pick a time that works for you and is blocked out so no one can reach you or disturb you. Shut off your phone, leave the house or school or send the kids to grandma.
Do what you need to do to have this preventive routine for your mental health and wellbeing.