Fighting off your demons by being active

Mishka Shubaly, beat after a race and better off for it. (mishkashubaly.com photo)

I came across an interesting story that’s worth a look, especially if you’re the type that is battling unhealthy patterns in your own life.

The story opens with the tale of Mishka Shubaly, a writer, author, musician and an admitted recovering alcoholic. He took up running and found it to be an excellent substitute for drinking. He’s now an ultra runner and is clean and sober.

It’s a great personal story, but the piece I was reading goes on. It talks about laboratory tests on rats which showed animals exposed to addictive narcotics and other drugs were less likely to consume the drugs when they had access to an exercise wheel.

Exercise, it would seem, can be an excellent way to fight addictive urges.

I’ve never had an addiction to alcohol or drugs, but I can attest to the cathartic and even healing properties of exercise. Physically, the endorphins are just good for the mind and soul. And that’s on top of the physical benefits.

Mentally and emotionally, an exercise habit has similar properties. I know a lot of people who seem to be “addicted” to negativity. They focus on their problems. Or politics. Or whatever. They’re not “happy” unless they have somewhere to direct their anger, fear or sorrow.

Last week I was running trails and not feeling particularly strong or ambitious. So I slowed down, stopped and took a look around. High on a hill but still in the woods, I got a good glimpse of some beautiful countryside. I hadn’t really stopped there to look around before, but I’m glad I did. That was time well spent, and a positive mindset ensued.

Contrast that to the person who is reading about the latest political conspiracy, dire prediction or other piece of bad news on the Internet. Or the person compelled to slam down another shot or take another hit.

Addictions don’t all have to be about substances. But escaping them can, at least in part, be found in being active.

I’m curious to see how these studies evolve. And if we’ll see more stories similar to that of Mishka Shubaly.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088

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4 thoughts on “Fighting off your demons by being active

  1. Running and yoga give me the time I need each week to “just be me.” It seems to be the only time, really, where there are no real expectations, no need to give and give and give of myself. My time running…my time practicing yoga…these times are all about me (often forgot about in the midst of a busy life). These healthy activities clear my mind, boost my self-confidence and energize me. Bottom line: They keep me sane and balanced. Yes, a sort of daily life-coping mechanism.

    One word of caution though: I have seen those who run to escape their problems without utilizing other means to satisfy or overcome the particular addicitions you mentioned above. Running helps one stay focused when dealing with difficulty, but should not be taken overboard and used as a crutch.

    Great writing, Bob!

  2. Thanks, Kelly! I totally agree. It’s one method to help. And you don’t want to trade one addiction for another, which is possible.

    Exercise — be it running, lifting, hiking or whatever — has been a salve for me for quite some time. And it’s cool to see examples where it’s helped save people’s lives. Trade the negative for something positive. Life’s too short to be drowning in substance abuse or negativity. God gives us one life on this earth. He expects us to be good stewards of it!

  3. I’ve been in pressure-cooker situations when I was still working. Sometimes the problems seemed to cascade into your face faster than you can digest them.

    Running, practicing forms, lifting took away the “noise” in my head and there they were; the problems, the answers and finally, peace.

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