Throughout the month of May, you will see many messages bringing awareness to Mental Health. Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in the U.S. since 1949. Every year during the month of May, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) joins the national movement to raise awareness about mental health. Mental health pertains to our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. How we think, feel, and act can all be related to this. It affects our ability to handle stress, make sound and healthy choices, and how we deal with others.
Mental and physical health are equal when it relates to your overall well-being. Conditions like depression can lead to many chronic disease issues, like heart disease and diabetes. Conversely, many chronic medical conditions can also lead to mental health issues. Thankfully there are many things that we can do to improve our mental health or make conditions manageable. Connecting with nature is one way that can help many with mental health issues. Being outside can bring a sense of calm, a clearer mind, and an opportunity to increase your daily physical activity.
Gardening is a great example of how you can connect with nature and get moving at the same time. Create a landscape at home that’s appealing and unique to you, offering a safe space to just be and breathe. Be sure to use the practical and necessary Florida Friendly Landscaping™ principles during this process. Springtime in Florida is a great opportunity to see everything new that nature offers in the south. Many state parks and some Extension offices throughout Florida may offer guided hikes or nature walks through local nature trails. This gives an up-close and personal view of some of Florida’s native vegetation and wildlife. This walking adventure can last from 30 minutes to an hour, helping release those feel-good endorphins that boost our mood and decrease stress hormones. When physical activity becomes a part of what you do daily, this habit can reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, help you sleep better, and increase energy. Read more here: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/FS441.
Some cognitive functions affected by mental health issues may impair how you approach each day. For example, how you plan daily activities, or even something simple like the ability to make quick decisions regarding certain tasks. Are you able to ignore distractions when focusing on a certain task? This particular scenario surely resonates with me. One question from a co-worker regarding the task can lead to a 30-minute conversation that may or may not have absolutely nothing to do with the task. A quick walk through our demonstration gardens can do the trick to bring focus and better concentration.
These actions may even help our self-concept, making us feel stronger when facing daily challenges confidently. As the saying goes “self-care is the best care,” so take time this month to acknowledge and assess your mental health. Take time for yourself and make a commitment to prioritize your mental health. Take time to connect with nature, increase your physical activity, and breathe some fresh air. Take time to… “just breathe.”