With snow still on the ground and temperatures below freezing, it can be hard to find a good reason to run. Health benefits aside, it’s just too cold, right?
But consider the psychological benefits. Remember that feeling you get when you finish a good run? The one that makes it all seem worth it?
In the running world, that feeling is referred to as a runner’s high. To Dr. Jeffrey Fishbein, a sports psychologist in Deerfield, it’s one of the psychological benefits of running.
“Sometimes the release of endorphins creates a feeling of happiness, an elevation of mood,” Fishbein said. “It’s a state of euphoria, really.”
Runner’s high is caused by a release of certain chemicals in the brain, and physical activity is the catalyst for that release.
According to Dr. Fishbein, the primary psychological benefit of running is stress reduction. Running can also combat depression, he said. Nearly the opposite of stress and depression, even the thought of achieving runner’s high can help you escape the winter blues and get back into the routine of running.
Although runner’s high has been practically mythologized in running lore, Fishbein warns that it isn’t easy to achieve.
“The harder you try to get it, the harder it is to find,” he said.
Scientists have debated whether runner’s high exists and where it comes from for decades now, but the most recent studies say it does exist and that it comes from a release of chemicals in the brain. With all the mystery surrounding it, it can be difficult to know how exactly to reach running euphoria.
But one thing is clear. You must run in order to reach the runner’s high.
“It’s oftentimes very difficult to create that feeling, but it’s a byproduct of the physical activity,” Fishbein said.