Disclaimer: these are meant to be small suggestions that may help you mentally, this is not meant to be medical advice on mental illness. Some resources will be at the end of this article.
Mental health is a crucial, but at times forgotten, part of maintaining our health and wellbeing. It entails our emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing, and greatly affects our daily lives. From our relationships, to our coping mechanisms, to how we treat ourselves, the state of our mental health influences all of these. Thus, taking care of this aspect of ourselves is important, and allows each of us to be a better person, friend, and global neighbor.
The winter months can be a difficult time for many, let alone in the midst of a pandemic. With the cold weather and the sun setting in the late afternoon, people tend to spend more time in isolation and experience a deficiency in vitamin D. This affects many people negatively, and often can take a toll on our mental health. As we move into spring and the days get longer, here are some tips to prioritize your mental wellbeing.
A great way to boost your mental health is to get out in nature. Taking a hike in the woods, or going for a walk around your neighborhood, has shown to have positive effects on mental health. The fresh air, calming sounds of nature, and simply being outdoors has been found by researchers to reduce effects of stress, depression, and anxiety (Harvard health publishing, 2018). Interacting with nature is therapeutic and can lower blood pressure and cortisol levels, the stress hormone. Additionally the visuals that nature provides, such as the swaying trees or the flow of water, can provide a soothing distraction from any negative thoughts. As the temperature starts to rise this month, try to spend some time in nature at least once daily.
These past few winter months have made it especially hard to have a safe social-distanced interaction with a friend. Luckily, the warmer weather allows us to meet up with friends outside again, so that we can be both safe, and avoid isolation. Social interaction and friendship have powerful effects on mental health. Humans are social beings and thus, need socialization to thrive. Something as simple as calling a friend can improve feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Having a good social support system, and meeting up to laugh, vent, and catch up can make a significant difference in your mental health. Try to schedule in some time to safely meet up with a friend in the park or through outdoor dining in order to maintain social interaction.
Finally, implementing an activity in your life in which you find purpose and meaning can greatly impact your mental health. This can be through a hobby, profession, or volunteering. Research has found that volunteering has significant beneficial impacts on one’s mental wellbeing. Volunteer activities that are oriented around helping others have been associated with a supportive network, better interpersonal relationships, and a sense of mattering and meaning (Yeung, Zhang, and Kim, 2018). Finding somewhere local to donate your time is an inexpensive and gratifying way to be a global neighbor, and do something beneficial for your mental health.
It is important to focus on more than solely your physical health as spring begins. Mental illnesses are one of the most common health issues in the United States. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness at some point in their life. Making small daily changes to your life can have great benefits in maintaining your mental wellbeing. As spring arrives, make it a priority to focus on what makes you feel your best mentally.
Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: “HELLO” to 741741
Veterans Crisis Line: Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) and press 1 or text to 838255
Philadelphia helpline: 267-687-4381 and dial 1