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Mindfulness Can Teach Us We Have Options: How That Can Help Your Running

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Mindfulness is super trendy. And for good is extremely useful in a multitude of ways. Stability, and the ability to ground yourself is a necessary precursor to tackling difficult tasks. Marsha Linehan is the mother of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a branch of cognitive therapy that has been used for decades in mental health practices. Mindfulness is one of the cornerstones of DBT, and the goals of mindfulness are outlined concisely and directly. Let's take a look at what DBT, with a foundation of mindfulness, allows us to understand:

You have options:

*Solve the problem -change the situation…avoid, leave, get out of the situation.

*Feel better about the problem -change or regulate your emotional response to the problem.

*Tolerate the problem -Accept and tolerate both the problem and your response to the problem.

*Stay miserable!-or maybe make it worse.

(per Linehan, DBT Skills Training Manual)

You can't change the wind, or rain, or snow, or temperature. You can't control everything that happens on the day of a big workout or your race. So changing the situation, isn't always feasible. And sometimes, we simply just don’t want to run. But usually avoiding a workout makes us feel worse, not better. Maybe the problem has nothing to do with running, but sometimes running is what helps us solve the problem by giving us space to get away. Sometimes running is the freedom we need to leave a situation. Know that mindfulness is not avoidance. Sometimes giving yourself mental space, and a mental break is exactly what your brain needed in order to discover the solution.

During a long run, a workout, a race, we may experience negative feelings. Learning how to manage your feelings and response to what is going on can help improve not only your running, but your resilience in any situation. This is part of being mindful...the ability to overcome difficulty and manage how you feel...but it all starts with acceptance in the moment.

The third option is often the best option. Acceptance is key. Running a marathon will undoubtedly have some dark moments, the pain cave, whatever it may be. Learning to accept the current situation in order to better tolerate it and peacefully move through it is helpful in allowing you to overcome and continue to perform to the best of your ability. This is where it is at! The most important component of mindfulness is being able to accept where you are at, what you are feeling, no matter what the content, in a nonjudgmental way. Instead of judging what you are experiencing and shoving it away, embrace the pain and accept that it is real. It may be tough, but you are too. You get tougher by training your mind to be able to handle it. Practicing your ability to accept and move through, is like giving yourself a flashlight to keep in your back pocket for that moment when you realize the dark pain cave is upon you. That flashlight will help you find your way back. You can accept it, tolerate it, overcome it, and be at peace with it.

Of course, you also always have the choice to do nothing. This will likely result in more negative feelings, longer duration of negative feelings and rumination, and is highly unlikely to have a positive outcome. But it is still your choice to stay in the pain, to live in the misery. I hope you don’t choose this option.

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