The month of May is symbolic for the blooming of flowers after April showers. We celebrate the love of our mothers this month, and some celebrate graduations and family vacations. Though the month signifies these traditions and more, it also brings to attention, Mental Health Awareness.
As we enter the month, there is no better time to sit back with a warm cup of comfort and reflect on our wellbeing, and all the ways we can support ourselves and each other to take the much-needed time to decompress, release, and consciously unwind.
Here are five simple ways you can practice balancing your wellbeing and practice mindfulness:
1. Surround yourself in nature: There is so much beauty and joy that comes from nature. According to the American Psychological Association, research finds that spending time in nature has direct cognitive benefits on our brain. In other words, nature can serve as an instant boost to your mood which aids in lowering stress levels. Tip: Find a calm space, some might refer to it as their happy place, and if you already have one – make it a point to visit routinely. This can be a park, your backyard, or any place that brings you peace. While you’re there, keep an open mind, take it all in, and enjoy.
2. Keep a gratitude journal: Expressing gratitude regularly is a wonderful mindfulness practice as it redirects your attention to the positive attributes of daily occurrences. By giving thanks, you are welcoming more contentment into your life. NPR highlighted research from the Clinical Psychology Review which recognizes the many benefits of giving thanks and counting blessings, such as: Better sleep, lower stress, and improved interpersonal relationships – just to name a few examples. Tip: Keep a notebook or journal by your bed – try to make it a point to write down a few things you want to give gratitude to from the day prior or the day at hand. You can do this first thing in the morning to start the day on a positive note, or before going to bed blissfully.
3. Deep Breathing: Another form of emotional release is through simply breathing deeply. This is also a well-known form of meditation that has many health benefits. According to Healthline, deep breathing helps regulate blood pressure and brings the body into a relaxed state while releasing the stress hormone, cortisol. Tip: Find a comfortable position, whether it’s a comfortable
chair with your feet planted on the ground, or a cozy spot on the floor, and close your eyes. Take three deep breaths. Breathe in slowly, hold at inhale for about 7-10 seconds, and slowly release at exhale. Ready to take it to another level? There are many forms of breathing exercise readily available through various mediation applications and online. Disclaimer: Your shoulders may begin to feel much lighter.
4. Daily walks: Daily walks have multiple benefits when it comes to physical health, such as cardiovascular health, but daily walks are also great for unwinding the mind and practicing being in the moment. Tip: next time you are taking a walk, focus diligently on the scenery around you. Observe what you see, hear, and feel. These sensations can open pathways to creativity and greater awareness.
5. Practice giving back: There are so many benefits to giving back, and many of them are similar to the benefits mentioned above. In a compilation done by the Cleveland Clinic, the health benefits of giving contributes to increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress levels and even a longer life, not to mention other benefits like empathy. If you have ever heard the saying “What you put out, you get back,” then you know it can relate directly to the feeling that comes from giving back. Giving back goes beyond monetary ways – it takes so many forms. Simply put, it means showing up for others. Tip: Practice empathy and kindness in daily life. This can be a simple gesture like offering help or support, whether it’s to a loved one or stranger, or as a volunteer in your local community.