In 2013, I lost my family home. I watched my house burn to the ground along with it all of the memories and memorabilia that it held. Clothes, electronics — all of that could be replaced, but the pictures, movies, and favorite toys from my childhood were gone.
That event also took my safety. As someone who was very independent growing up, I was now scared to be alone in any situation. I became panicked and began to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
It has taken many months for me to recover but through my therapy sessions, I have been able to get to a healthy and happy place, both mentally and physically. There was one thing I realized through this whole experience: The first thing I wanted to do after the fire was go for a run. But when you literally have nothing, it’s kind of hard to do that.
When I was able to purchase all of the gear I needed and get back to it, I felt at peace. That was when I started researching the benefits of running and mental health. If it helped me, I wondered if it could help others.
When I asked my therapist, he said that exercise can help you manage anxiety in a positive way rather than drinking alcohol or doing drugs. When I was under immense amounts of stress, running helped me relax, sleep and be happy. My therapist says that’s because exercise releases serotonin and endorphins which are key components in mood regulation, stress reduction, and an overall feeling of well-being.
I, of course, thought back to the scene in Legally Blonde with Reese Witherspoon when she said, “exercise gives you endorphins, endorphins make you happy, happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.”
For those who have experienced a major trauma, exercise might be just the thing you need to help you feel better and work through it. If exercise releases chemicals in your brain that makes you feel good, boost your self-esteem, and makes sleeping easier, this can help many more people going through a traumatic experience besides me.
I am now an advocate and I encourage those who are going through a tough time mentally, to exercise. Running helped me a great deal, but it’s not a replacement for talking to a doctor. I believe that talking to someone is critical for mental health problems as they are incredibly beneficial and important for progress, but this may be a way to help you progress to a healthier and happier you.