Finding Happiness in Running (Sort of)

Today was evidently my documentary day. I ended the day with Tiny, but I started it with Happy.

Happy is just what it sounds like: a documentary about happiness. I’m going to break it down into the CliffNotes version, but this should by no means keep you from watching it if you’re interested (I first saw it on PBS, but it’s on Netflix, which is how I watched today).

Much of happiness is innate (about 50%), then you get about 10% to your circumstances, and 40% is left unexplained. This 40% includes where you’re choices come into play.

There are four factors that are choice-based that impact happiness:

  1. Physical activity (I think you can see where this might be heading),
  2. Appreciating what you have,
  3. Connecting/bonding with others, and
  4.  Compassion/service to others.

“But Q, this is a (sort of) running blog. How are you going to address those other points?”

Well, really I’m not. You are.

But let’s start from the beginning with Point 1: Physical activity.

It’s running. Elle Woods said it best:

Point 2: Appreciating what you have

When you look at your own life in a vacuum, it’s easy to see all the things you don’t have. But life’s not a vacuum. There are other people in this world. And for better or worse in the U.S., many of these people are dealing with health issues from being overweight.

And today, I’m not one of them. I’m extremely thankful for that.

There are also people who’ve dealt with injuries that keep them from being physically active. Again, today I’m not one of them. And I’m still extremely thankful for that.

I run because some day I won’t be able to. I take the stairs because I know my body could eventually betray me. I try to make good decisions today because in the past, my circumstances allowed me to avoid many of the issues that have plagued people across the country.

This is about to get mean: I’m thankful that I (probably) don’t have to worry about ending up here. Yeah, that’s a messed up page. Not quite as positive as this one. And for that matter, I’m thankful that I will never really be able to make the positive page, unless I get in Marvel superhero shape.

I could look at my friends running full and half marathons and be jealous, but I’m not (most of the time). Instead, I’m happy I can trot my 180-something pounds around for a few miles for a 5K and (hopefully) a 10K.

Point 3: Connecting/bonding with others

This is where you come in (and those in my non-digital life). These running blogs have the ability to offer a sense of community. Everyone’s obnoxiously positive in the running community, which makes the jerk from my August race that much more infuriating.

Runners are encouraging online and in person. There about as non-judgy as it gets. Yogis are more judgy than runners, honestly.

Running is the closest thing I have to a hobby I can share with others. I read and play guitar as my other main outlets, and those are solitary activities. Running at least is something that is easier to start a blog and spam people with on Twitter and Instagram.

So yeah, this is all you.

Point 4: Compassion/service to others

Running for a good cause is kind of a default. All of my 5Ks last year made some sort of charitable contribution, even the Chick-fil-A race.

Running has allowed me to contribute to K-12 education, Habitat for Humanity, orphan services, dental charities, general service organizations, and a child abuse charity, among others. I’m a nice guy, but I don’t donate to charity as general default. I just don’t. Running makes me do that.

And did I mention runners being encouraging? That encouragement that builds bonds can become service. Ever run with someone who can’t run as far or as fast, but you want to give them company? Ever take time to make a run you didn’t want to just so someone didn’t have to run alone?

These things matter.

So Wrapping It Up

Running contributes to happiness in more than one way. I think the world would be a better place if more people put their feet to the pavement more often (or dirt, whatever floats your trail-running boat).

If you’ve got a more specific story to share on how running’s impacted your happiness, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


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