May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Mental Health America and Good Grief want us to take time to look around and look within in an effort to protect and improve and maintain our mental health.
What you will read over the course of the next three Good Grief blogs are suggested steps one can take to maintain or improve one’s mental and emotional well-being. We will look at three areas under one’s control:
1. Managing Surroundings
2. Yoga, Meditation and Breathing for Self-Care
3. What Being in Nature Can Do for Us
Let’s start with surroundings. Our physical surroundings–our homes, and our virtual surroundings in the form of an online presence, likely need the most attention. Routines can provide a starting point to build our resilience, help order our lives, and keep us mentally healthy.
In a 2014 commencement speech, Retired Admiral William McRaven spoke about the benefits of making a bed each morning.
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day,” McRaven said. “It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another.” By the end of the day, McRaven noted, a person will have completed any number of tasks. McRaven added, “making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.” A made bed, he noted, gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
So starting the day with a made bed, and ending the day with a clean kitchen, as many kitchen mavens advise, is a good start.
In the wake of a death, changing location of furniture, culling items one no longer needs, and freshening spaces can help you move forward. In his address, McRaven suggests finding someone to help you through life; you may need someone for support as you make your surroundings different. Such change means your living space doesn’t resemble the ones you once shared with a person who died.
Donating items to others can bolster your mental health. Replacing or swapping out items on a limited budget can be done through sites like freecycle.com, yard sales and estate sales.
Don’t be afraid to bring nature indoors; even twigs arranged in a vase can lift one’s spirits. Let natural light flow in your spaces. An article published by UCLA Health noted, “working in an office without natural light was associated with poor sleep, low mood and depression.” Let the sun shine in!
Managing your social media presence can be as easy as silencing your phone when needed. Take a vacation from Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. In an article from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, writer Sherry Thomas notes while social media sites have made positive impacts, “they are also unleashing a myriad of complex psychological issues that have altered our collective sense of reality.” Learning that you control social media; it doesn’t control you can lessen the noise in your life. Make a routine–phone silenced by a certain time. When, and how often, will you check your email? How long will you spend scrolling on your device?
You can find more ideas by downloading a free toolkit in English or Spanish at Mental Health America.
Learn more about Good Grief’s peer-support programming, where we provide a safe and welcoming environment for children and families to learn and practice healthy coping, self-care, and build community together at https://good-grief.org/