Reviving your mental health through mindfulness
Spring has sprung, and for me it is always a season filled with hope. Hope for the flowers that are beginning to peak out of the ground, and hope for longer days and the energy that comes with the sun sticking around later. In this particular year, I can sense a hope for vaccines becoming more widely available, which means hope for seeing friends and family in person for the first time in way too long.
However, while I recognize things feel more hopeful, I also know spring can also bring turbulent weather, and many of us will have to wait for the vaccine longer than we would like. So, what else can you do to revive your mental health in the meantime?
The Practice of Mindfulness
I have found the best way to revive my mental health is through mindfulness. First, I identify the actual feeling or feelings that have got me in a funk. This could be done a couple different ways from identifying the actual feeling to comparing that feeling to a color or a type of weather. Next, I mindfully think about what I need or what might help change my mood. The last and sometimes hardest step is making time for the mood-boosting activity.
When I consider my options, it usually involves disconnecting from screens. This can be intimidating at first because so much of my day revolves around screens, but there are many mood-boosting activities that can be done without devices. I have found that I am always at my best when I can be outside. This is a bit tricky in Chicago, even during the spring months, but taking a walk in nature is always refreshing. Spending time in a park or near water with or without a friend or partner to chat with allows my mind time to reflect and reset. Research shows just two hours a week outside improves mental health.
Depending on energy levels, other forms of exercise can also provide a helpful reset. Yoga is great because it encourages connecting breath to movements. It allows me to focus on the moment, while giving myself grace to do the poses I am capable of. Sometimes my energy levels are higher, and I look for a more rigorous form of exercise like running or a HIIT routine. The good news is that all forms of exercise are proven to release endorphins which are mood boosters. Finding ways to be active outside can combine the effects of both options!
Sometimes during the reflection step, I realize I just want to take in a good story. This may be where a screen enters the picture because I’m reading on my Kindle or getting set up to listen to good music. These options allow me to spend some time by myself to decompress and work through the mood I am in. Both ways provide an escape and I usually walk (or dance) away feeling better.
As a recap, you can revive your mental health with mindfulness by first identifying your particular mood and then picking an activity that would support a positive change in your mood. The last step is to make time to do that activity. With this strategy, you can take care of your mental health while we all wait for warmer temperatures and gatherings with our friends and family.
Christine Halpaus, a training specialist at Vitality, is a former K-6 educator. She earned her Masters in Teaching from George Mason University. Christine and her husband enjoy whatever time they can get outside whether kayaking in Lake Michigan, taking long walks in the sun or the snow with their three rescue dogs, enjoying the evening on a patio, or finding quiet in nature outside of Chicago.