Marathoners are an interesting group of people. I admit, I’m one of them, but I do understand that others find our kind a bit odd. The question I hear most often is, “Why would you want to run 26.2 miles? I don’t even like to drive that far!” Each runner has his or her own reasons for running marathons, so I won’t attempt to answer that question here and now. What I do think we can learn from the marathoner, though, is how to get out of an unhealthy mindset. It happens to me nearly every marathon. The thoughts that run through my head are something like this: My legs hurt…no, everything hurts. I am NEVER doing this again. Why do I do this to myself? I’m not sure I can make it to the finish line – where is that finish line, anyway? Why are these people cheering for me? I’m so slow! As you can see, negative thoughts creep into a runner’s mind and it’s up to the marathoner to change that. Otherwise, it makes for a very long, miserable run. Marathoners develop their own ways of getting unstuck from negative thoughts, and I think these can be very helpful to all of us.
Nearly all of us have experienced a time when we’ve felt down and needed some help to put an end to our own perceived misery. My running experience has helped me identify four actions that can help anyone get unstuck from negative thoughts, a lack of motivation, or feelings of discouragement.
- Get your body moving. Yes, when running a marathon, one’s body is already moving. However, in a marathon it helps to change the pace. Even when my body is screaming for me to stop, it is remarkable how picking up the pace actually improves my mental state and helps me realize things are not as bad as I think they are. The same holds true for you. Simply getting up, moving to a different room, or getting outside provides greater opportunity for you to view your circumstances from a new perspective. Take it up a notch and go for a walk or run. You’ll be amazed at how much better you begin to feel.
- Connect with someone. In a marathon, it is amazing how making eye contact with the very kind people who are cheering as I trod along gives me the energy I need to keep moving forward. I can’t help but smile, having been reminded that there are a lot of really great people out there. If you are feeling especially down, call someone. Even if you don’t feel like talking, reach out and find out how someone else is doing. Hearing someone else talk about what is going on in his or her life may be just the thing to get you out of your funk.
- Accentuate the positive. Nearly every marathoner has developed his/her own mantra. Mine echoes in my mind to the rhythm of my footsteps – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. This reminds me how thankful I am that God has blessed me with the gift of running and that with Him, I can do more than I ever thought on my own. Life certainly includes some pretty tough challenges, but don’t let those challenges consume your thoughts. Instead, make a list of the positive things in your life. Some ideas are good friends, an upcoming event, the beauty around you, your health, a good book, your favorite music, etc. Life does include many blessings. When thinking of these, you just may find your problem isn’t as big as you originally thought.
- Spend time with God. During a marathon, I have well over three hours of time on my feet and no one else with whom I can have a conversation, so it’s great to know God is there to hear me and be near to me. Just knowing that He loves me enough to be with me all the way to finish line is an incredible comfort. One of the great things about God is that He always is there. You don’t have to go anywhere or do anything special. Just tell Him you need Him, and He’ll provide the comfort you need.
When you take one or more of these actions, you are taking control of your thoughts. Consider this, if your thoughts are problem-focused or negative they are destructive. Instead, direct your thoughts to be positive, productive – solution-focused. If you find yourself stuck in negativity, take these tips from a marathoner and be encouraged to know that you can take action to get unstuck.