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Over the years, I have read a lot of information, opinion as well as some utter nonsense about something referred to as the “runners high”. Popular running blogs, and non-academics in the running community refer to this “runners high” as a sort of euphoria type of state that results in the body being flooded by endorphins and feel-good chemicals when we engage in running.

I certainly experience this, particularly after a long run, though according to the research and actual evidence, there is speculation about what it is and how it happens. There is very little evidence to suggest it happens as a result of increased endorphins in the brain, and we really need more research and well-designed studies to be more sure of what is happening physically within us to cause this.

The fact of the matter though, is that the vast majority of runners, especially when certain levels of fitness have been achieved do report that they enjoy a general sense of well-being after they have been running and way back in 1979 Mandell wrote in the Psychiatry Annals about such a thing as the “runners high” existing.

Mandell (1979) wrote at a purely theoretical level based upon personal experience and considered neurochemical literature illustrating effects of various drugs on the central nervous system, drawing parallels to what goes on in the brain when we exercise. Mandell also suggested the role of serotonin was more important and this has since been confirmed a study conducted by Chauloff (1997) which showed the importance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine as well as serotonin (feel-good chemicals known to effect mood) as they were much more present following exercise.

So although there is discussion to be had about the real chemical production in the brain when running, we can be sure that it happens to make us feel good and also that if it keeps on feeling good, we are going to be more inclined to persist with our running. Heck, when we enjoy something and it makes us feel good, we are going to carry on and do more of it, right?

This process today then, brings to an end this mini-series of running processes from the papers I have been reading in recent weeks as I put my next book together.

The evidence may not be of much interest to you, or really that much use, but I hope the process that follows is one that you’ll use for great effect as I certainly have been doing. Once I had read the paper by Mandell (1979) I also read the personal account and seeming cognitive strategy that was chartered within it and having read about how exercise and our thoughts can influence feeling, it made a lot of logical sense to use our self-hypnosis skills to develop and purposefully engineer our very own “runners high”.

Mandell’s account even stated that these cognitions were said when charting the runners high subjective experience:

The running literature says that if you run six miles a day for two months, you are addicted forever.”

Our aim is not to get you addicted of course, but this is the kind of suggestion that the researcher said whilst engaging in the “runners high”.

Simply follow these steps for Getting and Using The Runners High With Self-Hypnosis:

Make sure you are in a place where you’ll be undisturbed for the duration of this session. Ensuring you are in a comfortable, seated, receptive posture and position yourself with your feet flat on the floor with your arms and legs not touching each other, then begin.

Step One: Induce hypnosis. You can do so by any means you desire or know of. You can use the process in my self-hypnosis book, use the free audio at this website to practice or have a look at the following articles as and when you need them; they are basic processes to help you simply open the door of your mind:

Heavy Arm Self-Hypnosis Induction Method 

Using Eye Fixation for Self-Hypnosis

The Betty Erickson Self-Hypnosis Method Video Clip

Using Magnetic Hands for Self-Hypnosis

Once you have induced hypnosis, move on to step two

Step Two: Imagine being out on a long run. See the sights, hear the sounds. Be in a typical place that you run regularly and engage with it.

Be well into the run. That is, imagine that you have been running for a while and your exertion levels have been impressive.

Notice your breathing rate, notice if you are sweating, notice your body temperature and really feel how you are.

Tell yourself that with every step you run, you go deeper into hypnosis. Then continue on your imagined run, tuning in to your physical self, noticing how you feel when you have exerted yourself on a good run and once you have that, move on to the next step.

Step Three: Notice the way that your running exertion has affected your brain. Imagine that deep inside your brain, it is responding to the exertions and releasing and producing those feel-good chemicals.

Imagine deep inside your brain the running exercise is causing it to produce serotonin and other feel-good chemicals, and use your imagination, in whatever way is right for you, and imagine how they are being spread from your brain and through your body.

If you need to encourage more production of those chemicals, you can increase the volume or the depth of the movement as you imagine it spreading from the base of your brain and throughout your body.

Maybe imagine the good feelings as a colour, maybe imagine them as light, maybe you just follow the actual physical sensation, maybe you imagine it as a sound resonating and moving… Represent the good feelings generated by your brain in whatever way best suits you.

Spread the good feeling around and go deeper into hypnosis as you do that.

When you realise that those good feelings are building and developing notably, then move on to the next step.

Step Four: Engage with the surroundings of your run again. This time in much more detail, almost as if your senses have come to life and are sharpened, like everything is fresh and new and exciting.

Notice how the colours are brighter and more vivid, spot more of the details of all that is around you. Notice and tune in to the sounds being even more harmonious, clearer and sharper and enjoy the feelings developing within you as your senses enliven.

As you do this, imagine that your body is flooded with a deep rooted sense of contentment that spreads from the base of your brain, the seat of your mind and works it’s way into your physical body and even nourishes your soul – whatever that means to you and who you are, let it uplift.

Imagine it as a warmth, not in temperature terms, but as a contented warmth and soothing sense that spreads through your body, glowing and easing, almost as if it is in your blood working throughout everything that is you.

Get a real sense of this and move on to the next step.

Step Five: Imagine and allow all/any thoughts to simply bubble up through the mind and out of the head to be dissipated and enjoy some moments of mental calmness as you run effortlessly and enjoyably with a peaceful mind.

Imagine a connection with your surroundings, enjoy feeling connected to the environment of your run and if you want to have any thoughts simply affirm to yourself that “running feels good” or “I enjoy running”.

Continue that sense of warmth spreading through you, develop that connection with the surroundings and bring it all together and just exist within all of that for a while.

Continue with this step for a healthy period of time and really connect and engage with the good feeling and associate that good feeling (even if it is just an imagined good feeling for now) with the run and the process of running.

Once you think you have spent enough time on this step and you have really associated running with that good feeling, then move on to the next step.

Step Six: Tell yourself that each time you practice this, it works better and better for you and that when you practice this process during your runs, it becomes increasingly more noticeable and beneficial and that it helps you remain motivated to run and that you enjoy your running experience even more.

Spend a bit of time bringing those thoughts together and then move on to the final step.

Step Seven: Take a couple of deeper, energising breaths. Wiggle your fingers and toes and open your eyes.

Practice this using self-hypnosis a couple of times, then with some mental rehearsal under your belt, start using this process during your runs to develop and build your own “runners high” which will serve to enhance your enjoyment of your runs and keep you running!


Chauloff, F. (1997) The serotonin hypnothesis. In: Morgan, W. P. ed. Physical activity and mental health. Washington: Taylor and Francis: 179-198.

Dishman, R. K. (1997) The norepinephrine hypnothesis. In: Morgan, W. P. ed. Physical activity and mental health. Washington: Taylor and Francis: 199-212.

Mandell, A. J, (1979) The second second wind. Psychiat Annals; 9, 57-69.