No one’s better at helping others battle mental illnesses like someone who’s been there before. After experiencing depression for many years first hand, Scott Douglas explored many tricks to getting rid of his mental health’s worst nightmare, before landing on just the right kind of therapy.
Running. And you better believe it can be your therapy too.
Using cutting-edge science and expert advice, Douglas shares the ways running can lead to a more fulfilling life in “Running Is My Therapy: Relieve Stress and Anxiety, Fight Depression, Ditch Bad Habits and Live Happier”. More importantly, he knows what it’s like to lack motivation before making a habit of putting on the running shoes.
So what should you do? We asked Douglas if he could give us some tips on how to get people moving who aren’t physically active or too depressed to get up.
How can someone who lacks determination find the motivation to get out of the house and start exercising?
Scott Douglas: Even the most dedicated exercisers sometimes struggle to get out the door. Inertia is a powerful force. A few key ways to taking the first step, which is the most important one:
- Remind yourself of the times you felt this way but worked out, and how much better you felt after. The same feelings of energy and accomplishment will soon be yours this time as well.
- Think of all the reasons you work out. Focus on the ones that have the most meaning to you in this moment.
- Tell yourself all you have to do is a short workout, and that if you still feel tired and apathetic after 10 minutes, you can stop. Odds are you’ll keep going once you’re in motion.
- Picture yourself going to bed that evening. Would you rather tell yourself “today I gave up” or “today I made it happen”? Few people turn out the lights wishing they hadn’t worked out that day.
- Think of exercise not as time spent, but time invested. The yield on that investment is all the other minutes of the day being better.
How much or little running can make a difference in someone’s mood?
Scott Douglas: Anything is better than nothing. A 10-minute run is closer to an hour run than it is to not running. The act of making this sometimes difficult thing happen can bring a sense of empowerment and achievement regardless of how long you stay out.
In terms of endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals, most people notice a significant effect after 20 to 30 minutes. Longer runs can provide even more profound mood boosts, assuming you have the fitness to do them comfortably.
It’s better to consistently run moderate amounts than cycle through periods of running a lot and barely running. Regularly doing two to four runs per week of at least 20 minutes each should provide a significant boost to your mental health.
Is running half a mile enough to get you started?
Scott Douglas: Yes, because like I said, anything is better than nothing. Or, as tennis legend Arthur Ashe put it, ‘start where you are, use what you have, do what you can’.
Every regular runner was once a beginner. They found the amount of running they could initially handle, and gradually increased it. They learned that after just a few weeks, they could go farther and faster with less effort.
Two keys to navigating your early days: First, mix walking and running. Head out the door at a leisurely walking pace. (Doing so can make the transition to being in motion seem less mentally daunting.) After a few minutes, break into an easy jog. If you start to get tired, resume walking until you feel able to comfortably handle another bout of running. Over time you’ll naturally feel like running more.
Second, when in doubt, slow down! A big mistake new runners make is thinking that they should be out of breath. Even the best runners in the world do most of their running at an easy, conversational pace. The best way to increase the distance you can run is to go at a pace at which you can speak in complete sentences.