Is depression beginning to take control of you? Are you constantly feeling down, full of endless thoughts that weigh you down? And are you looking for a natural way to deal with it without having to take medicine?
Well, meditation and running might just be what you are looking for.
While meditation alone has been found to provide good anti-depression effects that help us remain calm, peaceful, and relaxed, combining it with running has also shown to be a potentially effective solution. And here we are going to have a look at how a combination of these two practices provides a powerful effect that can help overcome depression and help us improve our overall wellbeing.
The Combined Effect of Meditation And Running
The practice of meditation by itself deals with depression in many different ways. First, it helps to reduce the overthinking that comes when we are depressed and also regulates the negativity of thought that we get more inclined to when we are in this state.
Mindfulness meditation helps us to be in the present moment and therefore let go of the past and future thoughts that weigh us down and make our situations worse. And this allows us to see reality as it is as opposed to the exaggeration that depression brings.
Secondly, meditation provides insight and knowledge of the cause of our depression and helps us have the mental energy and clarity we need to find proper solutions to the problems and execute them the right way so as to get through that difficult phase completely.
Vipassana meditation, which is also referred to as insight meditation, helps us to transform ourselves by observing ourselves and our experiences. It first trains us to be in the present moment and be aware of it and then to use the present moment awareness to inquire into the self.
The inquiry reveals the self to us and makes it clear for us the areas we are lacking and can also help us know the root cause of our depression and use the insight to solve the main problem.
Meditation also helps to reduce the guilt we get from depression. If someone else is responsible for our misery, the practice paves way for us to not have a grudge on them or treat them harshly but be more compassionate towards them amidst our suffering.
If we are the ones who put ourselves into problems that made us depressed, meditation also reduces self-judgment and self-criticism and strengthens us to get past this phase.
Compassion meditation is a meditation practice that trains us to cultivate deep thoughts of compassion towards ourselves and others. We become aware of pain, unhappiness, discomfort, distress, and suffering, and we put our focus on the desire to alleviate them with love and great care.
Running, on the other side, is perceived as a form of meditation in motion. When we are running, the brain releases endorphins, which are hormones that bring a natural state of alertness as well as a good inner feeling. This occurrence has a positive effect on depression and overall mental health.
It also makes the brain release a chemical known as norepinephrine which regulates our reaction to stress and boosts our wellbeing.
Moreover, it helps to ease the tension in our bodies and minds. When we decide to run and go out, we get to change our environment which helps us release a bit of tension. On top of that, the activity of running clears up our minds and allows us to see things and our problems clearly as opposed to just sitting at home or sleeping, which only makes things worse (1)(2).
Working with just one of these two techniques to handle depression can help improve symptoms of depression in a big way but when you combine them, you get a much more powerful effect that goes a long way in not only helping you feel better and solving the problems that led you to depression but also improve other aspects of your health like your cardiovascular system and others.
How Meditation And Running Reduce Depression
Few recent studies have revealed the mechanism of action and the synergistic effects of both meditation and running in bringing down high levels of depression.
A study published on Translational Psychiatry that looked into how combining meditation and aerobic exercises can help with depression revealed that the two practices can reduce rumination and improve synchronized brain activity (3).
The study involved 52 participants, 22 of which had been diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and the others were in the control group. They were taken through an 8-week training where they received 30 minutes of focused attention meditation which was followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercises that were moderate, every day for 8 weeks.
Afterward, they were all tested for various indicators of depression and the results showed that the participants who were depressed had lower levels of depression and fewer ruminative thoughts.
They also showed improved cognitive control processes and improved neurogenesis in the brain. Neurogenesis is the process that involves the formation of new neurons in the brain and running has been found to contribute to this process (4).
While running and meditation as a treatment for depression are still in their early stages of research and there is little and limited information about it, future research in the area will help us understand it better and determine how we can use both exercises for clinical purposes.
How to Get Started And Succeed With Both Exercises
As we have seen, running and meditation as a means to control and overcome depression are still under study and nothing has fully been confirmed as the right approach to using the two for improving depression symptoms.
That being the case, we suggest working with meditation styles that have been found by researchers and scientific studies to help deal with depression as they are more likely to bring about positive effects. These meditation styles include mindfulness meditation, compassion meditation, vipassana meditation, focused attention meditation, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), loving-kindness meditation, yoga, walking meditation, breathing meditation, and body scan meditation to name a few.
We encourage you to look through all the mentioned options and get to know them better and figure out what each offers. Then, pick one of them which you feel is in line with your core beliefs, values, traditions, and perspectives on life.
You can begin practicing it immediately by doing it for 1 to 5 minutes every day, if possible. You can even use guided meditation for that meditation style to help you through your first few meditation sessions by using online meditation videos from credible sources, meditation audios, and scripts, or even apps like Headspace, Calm, and Insight Timer.
On top of that, you should also consider running in your locality or using a treadmill. Regular running where you wear your sports clothes and jog or run for a couple of minutes within your locality has more benefits when it comes to depression because it offers you the chance to get out of your house and get into a fairly new environment which greatly reduces the depression tension.
You can start by running for 5 to 10 minutes each day or every so often and then when you get used to it, you can take it to the next level by doing 10 to 15 minutes and so on.
Also, try to do both on the same day. You don’t necessarily have to do them around the same time. You can choose to meditate in the morning and run in the evening, or both in the morning or evening, or just simply space them out according to the free time you have in your schedule which you choose to dedicate to the practices.
Either way, ensure you are doing them both on the same day and you are doing them regularly too.
Another important thing to note is that, you should try and make an effort of reflecting on your problems and why they led you to depression. Think about them deeply and determine why they have affected you that much and seek to know how you can solve them once and for all.
You might have to consult with a few people (family, friends, and experts in the area you’re struggling with) or even have therapy sessions.
Ideally, aim to run, meditate, and find solutions for your problems, and things are going to get better for you soon.
In summary, meditation and running are not only good for the body and the mind as ways to keep fit but they can also have an improving effect on depression and help us live more balanced lives.
And to get started with both, we only need to identify the meditation style we wish to get into and prepare ourselves to be running every so often. We can begin with 5 minutes of meditation or less together with a few meters of running every day and as we progress and get used to them, we can increase the time for doing them.
The best time to get started with the two practices is now. Just make a decision and get started. Remember to start small and do it often and soon enough you will see the positive effect the new routine will have on your life as a whole.