Footsteps, squelching mud, rocks shifting, crunching leaves, breathing. Most of the sounds you’ll hear while out on a run are those external ones, the sounds of you and the scenery that you’ve come to adventure and get lost in. A break from the daily grind and rush of work, family, and obligations, and a chance to be with yourself.
What happens though when our minds don’t slow down and we leave our runs feeling like it wasn’t the much-needed break we wanted. Often we keep our minds busy working when we could instead slow them down and put them to good use building ourselves up. Being present in our thoughts by being aware of what we’re thinking helps us to get so much more out of our runs. Mindfulness is both being aware of, and having control over your thinking. Mindfulness practices, or specific ways of thinking, are a great element to bring to some of your runs. Give your mind a way to participate alongside your body and it’s sure to boost your mood, elevate your happiness levels, and leave you feeling like you got the mental, and physical, break you needed to boost the rest of your day.
The easiest mindfulness practice to start with while running, that also gives plenty of bang for its buck, is one of practicing gratitude. This is calling to mind things for which you are grateful, or thankful for, either in your life or what is relevant in that moment. These thoughts can be of something small – coffee, dry shoes, a view, bringing the right layers on a run etc. Or of something ‘larger’ such as a strong body capable of running, a supportive family, or your will to get started on a challenging run. Each thought should be a complete sentence: “I am grateful for the cool breeze” or “I am grateful for my strong legs to get me up this hill” or even “I am thankful for the snuggle time I share with my children.” These thoughts can be an internal monologue, but are more powerful when said out loud – if you have the breath for it! Calling to mind the things in your life you are grateful for is a sure-fire way to give yourself a boost, both during and after a run.
Sending Well Wishes
A gratitude practice, like the one above, is great for lifting ourselves up. Our second practice, one of sending Well Wishes, increases our sense of belonging and connectedness to others. Think of the time you did something nice for another person, held the door open, bought someone coffee, gave a gift – you probably had a positive boost from that interaction. A Well Wishes practice is along the same lines but is done with purposeful thinking in your mind, perfect for when out on a run.
Start with thinking of someone you are very close to. Then in your mind, or out loud, say “I wish you well _____, may you have happiness and peace in your life. May you have joy and love.” Really be intentional with the thought as you say it so there is true meaning behind it. Pick other people in your life to send Well Wishes to – siblings, parents, children, and then start to move outward from your close circle, onto coworkers, light friends, and people you see at the store. You’ll find that you can alter the words to be more fitting to each person as you move through your list.
One of my personal favorites is calling to mind positive affirmation statements. I usually save this one for when I feel like I’ve hit my stride while out on a run, though it can also be used to try and bolster a run you’re not feeling so great about. These statements are naming the positive way you’re feeling while running (or would like to feel). Aim for short, but sweet sentences, either said out loud or as an internal monologue. Some of my absolute favorites are “I am strong”, “I am confident and sure-footed” and “I can accomplish difficult things.” There is a lot of power in naming those positive feelings, allowing you to bask in the awesomeness of what you’re doing in the moment of it. I also find that by being more aware of those positive and confident feelings while running, I can call them to mind later when I need them the most for an added boost – think walking into a meeting or trying something out of your comfort zone.
Running already lifts us up. We work hard, experience views, find peace and quiet from our otherwise busy lives. Often each run has a different intention – whether for building strength, covering longer distances, practicing downhill running, or for the sake of adventuring. Always remember to set out on a run for yourself, give yourself a boost, and build the strongest “you” there can be, both inside and out.