Every May, Mental Health America promotes Mental Health Awareness Month to educate the public about mental health. Through media outreach, education, local events, and online screenings, the goal is to encourage people to examine their own mental health and emotions. From depression to bipolar disorder, mental health problems have never been more prevalent in America. Make sure you know how to take care of yourself.
This year, Mental Health America is expanding its 2018 campaign, #4Mind4Body. PHC is following their example this month as we encourage our patients to stay mentally healthy. Let’s look at Mental Health America’s focuses for May 2019: animal companionship, spirituality, humor, work-life balance, and socialization.
Pets and support animals offer so much more than snuggles and companionship. According to Mental Health America, pets can help anyone improve their physical activity levels, decrease stress, and lower blood pressure.
People with mental and physical health conditions benefit even more from a furry friend! VCA Hospitals explains that therapy animals, particularly therapy dogs, commonly visit hospitals to encourage patients or help with physical activities. And of course, who hasn’t heard of service animals? Dogs dominate this field too, but service animals can be anything from cats to parrots. A properly trained service animal can help a handicapped owner with mental health or daily activities.
Even if you don’t necessarily need a service or therapy animal, owning a pet or periodically spending time with animals can immensely boost your mental health. For those who can’t commit to owning a pet, you can always find a local cat cafe or similar business to spend time with our furry friends.
From meditation and yoga to religious practices, activities to maintain a healthy soul will help to improve your mental and physical health as well. Spiritual practices like meditation or prayer are associated with higher levels of serotonin and dopamine, the “calming” hormones that bring mental stability.
The community aspect associated with most religious practices also plays a big role in mental health. Regularly attending church or services places you in the company of like-minded people and provides a calming, happy atmosphere for you to focus on your spirituality. Regardless of your religious background, adopting some spiritual practices might help boost your mental health.
We all know that life isn’t always funny, but taking some time to laugh can lighten your mood and help you more effectively deal with hard situations. The saying “laughter is the best medicine” actually has a scientific basis. Laughter is known to promote the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain blockers and antidepressant hormones!
To incorporate some humor into your life today, give one of these methods a try:
- Watch a comedy show or movie.
- Share funny moments from your day with a loved one.
- Journal three funny things that happen to you every day.
- Play a game, like Charades, that encourages lighthearted behavior.
Pro Tip: Physical activity such as exercise releases the same “happy” hormones as laughter. Stay on top of your mental health with periodic workouts or walks around the neighborhood to produce helpful endorphins.
Of course, laughter isn’t a cure-all, and everyone’s sense of humor is slightly different. While humor can help boost your overall mental health, don’t assume that watching or reading something funny will immediately make you or a loved one feel better. Let others incorporate humor into their lives as they feel it’s appropriate.
Work-life balance has fortunately gotten more focus in recent years as more people acknowledge its impact on mental health. According to Mental Health America, nearly 40% of full-time employed American adults reported working at least 50 hours per week, and 18% work 60 hours or more. If you are one of these hard workers, consider the benefits of scaling back at work and incorporating more activities for yourself:
- Higher job satisfaction
- Higher quality of life
- Fewer symptoms of depression or anxiety
- Lower risk of health conditions
- Better sleep routines
Above all, remember that work should never take over your life. Your primary focus should always be on your own mental health, your relationship with your loved ones, and who you are as a person. Your worth is not measured by how many hours you put in.
Spending too much time alone can take a toll on your mental state. Fortunately, regular socialization can improve your mood and help your overall mental state. Whether you prefer bigger groups like a family outing or more intimate settings like lunch with a friend, take the time to connect with other people. Strong friendships can contribute immensely to robust mental health.
What Can You Do for Mental Health Awareness Month 2019?
Our mental wellness resources can answer many of your questions or concerns about helping your own mental health. If you find yourself experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other mental conditions, feel free to take advantage of the help available to you. Reach out to your local health center services clinic, schedule a counseling appointment, or talk with a loved one about how you are feeling.
Above all, remember that your brain is an organ like any other part of your body. You wouldn’t be embarrassed if one of your kidneys failed and required treatment. Likewise, you have no reason to feel ashamed of any mental health problems you may be having. Your body just needs help sometimes, and there’s no shame in acknowledging that.
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