Running can be useful as an adjunct treatment for many illnesses, especially when we are dealing with treating difficult mental health conditions. There has been scientific evidence that exercise increases the levels of certain brain chemicals that are deficient in people who suffer with depression.
December is Seasonal Affective Disorder Awareness Month. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a form of depression that affects sufferers during the winter months in which there are fewer daylight hours. Because there is not as much daylight, circadian rhythms are disrupted, and those who have this disorder may suffer from sadness, lack of pleasure or lack of interest, excessive sleeping or trouble sleeping, weight loss or gain, thoughts of death or suicide, and difficulty concentrating. As with other forms of depression and psychiatric disorders, seasonal affective disorder is a real medical condition related to neurotransmitters in the brain. In general, the accepted treatment for seasonal affective disorder is light therapy, which tricks the brain into thinking there are longer hours of daylight by introducing additional light by the use of a light box.
It has been shown that in some forms of depression, sufferers may have low levels of serotonin or norepinephrine in their brains. These are neurotransmitters, or chemicals which are responsible for transmitting electrical messages between nerve cells in the brain. Certain antidepressant medications work by affecting the levels of these neurotransmitters in the synaptic space between neurons (nerve cells). Some evidence has shown that low- to moderate-level exercise, such as distance running, yoga, swimming, and cycling, can raise levels of serotonin in the brain. If you suffer from depression, try talking to your doctor about whether adding moderate exercise to your treatment plan can help you return to your daily routine and get back to feeling better. Remember that you are not alone.
In addition to the scientific evidence that running can help boost mood from the neurotransmitter level, it may help you to have an outward goal and something else to focus on during the early days of treatment for depression. Just take it one day, one step, one moment at a time so it doesn't all feel so overwhelming. You don't have to conquer this all at once. Dealing with a mental health condition can be stigmatizing and isolating, but remember that it is not your fault nor is there necessary anyone to blame. You need not go through this process alone. Hopefully, you have a good support system, but even if not, there are plenty of resources in the community. Look here to find some.