In his biographical novel, The Origin, Irving Stone describes how Charles Darwin walked on a designed path on his property. Each time he came around to his starting point, he kicked a small stone, placing it on a line with the others so that he had could later count his laps. With this method, he could free his mind of frivolous thoughts that might interfere with his more profound thinking later in the day. Darwin did some of his best thinking as he walked because the exercise relaxed him and cleared his mind of distractions.

Mindful Running

While Darwin used walking as a meditative exercise to remove thoughts that were not useful to him, others have practiced mindful running, thus generating a healthy and pleasurable way to run that results in both physical and mental well-being. That is, as they go on their routes, mindful runners try to be in sync with their bodies by listening to their breathing and adjusting their pace so that they are not “huffing and puffing.” Mindful runners try to remove any distractions that keep them from performing well and being in tune with themselves.

Benefits of Mindful Running

Scientific research has shown that mindful running is both legitimate and beneficial to those who practice it. In fact, Translational Psychiatry published a 2016 study that demonstrated how directed meditation combined with walking or running significantly reduced symptoms of depression by 40 percent in the depressed participants. Scott Douglas, who suffers from dysthymia, or chronic low-grade depression, wrote in the August 8, 2017, edition of Runner’s World that he runs “to bolster” his mental health. In the Los Angeles area, one psychotherapist, Dr. Sepideh Saremi, believes so strongly in the positive results of mindful running that he has “on-the-run sessions” with patients who are willing to join him.

Along with reducing the symptoms of depression, mindful running frees the runner from distracting thoughts. Studies conducted at the Human Performance and Health Research Group at The University of Portsmouth revealed that visual and audial distractions lowered endurance performance. So, learning to ignore such distractors with mindful running can translate to success, not just in distance running, but in life, the longest distance one will go.