Replace Drugs With Running to Experience a ‘Natural High’

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German national soccer player and captain Philipp Lahm runs during a training session in St. Martin, northern Italy
German national soccer player and captain Philipp Lahm runs during a training session in St. Martin, northern Italy, May 29, 2014. The German national soccer team's training camp, in preparation for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, began in St. Martin near Merano on May 21. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

Running, in place of 'recreational drugs,' brings in an endorphin rush, which in turn gives rise to a feel good factor, reveals a study.

Relaxation includes many techniques such as consumption of drugs. According to a recent study, 10 per cent of the working class in Australia consume drugs or use cannabis. Australians, researchers say, are the biggest users of ecstasy. However, recent studies have revealed that runners or people who run regularly talk about being taken to a "higher" place and experiencing a post exercise "high."

While drugs can knock you down, disrupt your daily routine and play havoc with your fitness, running, which is also addictive, is recreational, and relieves you of physical and emotional stress.

The 'natural high' that one can experience during a race, or a training session, is being referred to as "flow" by psychologists. People who have experienced "flow" summarise it thus -  "felt easy," "complete task focus," "totally relaxed," "enjoying experience as it occurs," "totally absorbed in what I am doing," "endless supply of energy," "things happening automatically,""nothing else enters awareness" and "leaves you feeling great".

Sue Jackson, a registered psychologist and member of the College of Sport and Exercise Psychologists of the Australian Psychological Society, now manages the Body and Mind Flow training clinic in Brisbane. "When in flow, nothing disturbs or detracts from this concentrated state. Neither external nor internal distractions take up mental space. It's an optimal mindful state," explains Jackson.

There is a sense of effortlessness when you are in flow, said Jackson. "Even if you are aware of your effort, because of your level of confidence and your sense of control of what you're doing, you don't perceive it the same way," said Jackson, who has worked with elite athletes and been part of the psychology of performance enhancement after acquiring a PhD degree on flow state in the early 1990s.

The flow concept was first introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the 1990s. In Csikszentmihalyi's words, "Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energised focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity."

Running gives you a high, which in turn facilitates the "flow." This makes the task at hand more enjoyable and hence motivating too. Scientists thus recommend running to 'recreational' drugs.

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