A runner’s high is, loosely interpreted, the euphoric feeling of having just accomplished something amazing. And it is these feelings that I like to cultivate.
A state of euphoria after running has been connected to the release of endorphins after physical activity. But it also has psychological factors which are discussed in an article by Sarah Willett. Basically, it is the positive feeling associated with accomplishing a task for which someone has arduously striven.
I have had these feelings after a variety of events including running, backpacking, recitals, and event planning. And I find that it is a good litmus test for how fulfilling something is. If I work extremely hard toward a goal that is worth achieving, I end up with this euphoric feeling afterwards.
I don’t even have to be that successful to experience this. I can get a high if I ran 12.5 miles and limped that last bit toward the finish line of a half marathon. I can experience euphoria after a recital that had several wrong notes in it. I can find joy in just doing something as long as it was worth doing.
It is pretty easy to tell if I worked extremely hard on something I’m not fulfilled by. At the end of an event I don’t believe in, I just feel exhausted and I crash. At the end of a gig I took just for the money, I feel like I need a nap.
At the end of doing something I sincerely believe in, I can’t help but think of my next endeavor. The runner’s high is addictive. And it helps us keep moving forward.
My first backpacking trip felt exhausting but the euphoria of it made me want to do it again. My first small jogs felt miserable but my first half marathon just made me want to shoot for a full 26.2. My first few recitals were not great performances but the adrenaline and the sense of accomplishment kept pushing me to perform over and over again.
The runner’s high is the common thread in everything I am proud of. And now I look for it. If we seek out this kind of feeling, we will find work that is both rewarding and fulfilling.