Don’t Underestimate the Power of Nature

Sometimes it is hard to continuously find motivation to reach your goals to conserve nature and work to help the environment.  Second thoughts may come up such as…Is it really worth carrying around all these reusable bags? or Can’t I just buy a plastic water bottle when I get to the gym? and even A Big-Mac sounds good right about now! 

Although everyone’s second thoughts are different, we all have them. And even if you haven’t asked yourself similar questions, I’m sure someone else has.

What can you do about this?

When you are hearing these thoughts, it is hard to snap out of it.  The only sure way to get back to where you want (and need) to be is to venture into nature!  Petting a few animals may remind you why you choose a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.  Swimming in a lake and seeing all the fish and animals could also remind you why you don’t use plastic.  Those animals don’t deserve to eat the plastic or have it stuck around their necks!  Seeing beautiful trees and greenery is a reminder that you don’t want to cause any harm to our dear Earth!

Another Example of nature’s inspiration:

 

nature_bear

Black bear at the animal sanctuary on Grandfather Mountain

Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina

5 ways to incorporate nature into your everyday life

1. Open the windows

Whether you’re cooking dinner or slaving over your computer at work, fresh sunlight from open blinds or fresh air from an open window can do wonders!

2. Have a plant

Taking care of a plant is a great way to see nature every day. You are actively caring for it, which creates a lot of motivation! To keep the plant alive and healthy, a routine must be established which leads to it being an everyday part of your life.

3. Add a pet to your family

It does not matter if you decide on the typical dog or take the easier way and get a fish or spring for a horse, each will provide you with a source of joy. Even more so than a plant, animals provide a routine and a sense of responsibility to animals and plants of the Earth.

4. Go for a walk

Some of the best ideas are thought of during a walk!  Why is that?  I think getting fresh air and your endorphins flowing keeps the human body and mind working the way it should.

5. Eat plants

It has been proven that a plant-based diet is best for the environment.  It can also help with your health and therefore your mind as well.  Jumping head first into a plant-based diet can be daunting, which is why it is recommended to start with Meatless Mondays.

Start today

No matter how you personally choose to do it, I ask you to meditate on the beauty of our Earth and how you treat our home and all those who inhabit it.

5 Practical Ways to Take Better Care of Our Mental Health

Though most of us recognize the benefits of investing time and effort on physical health and fitness, this is hardly the case when it comes to mental health. Admittedly, I too failed to acknowledge its importance but it all changed years ago when I found myself working for a non-profit organization which focuses on providing mental health support.

Through this experience, I learned firsthand that maintaining a good state of mental health is as crucial if not more – as maintaining our physical health.

When it comes to mental health illnesses, prevention is certainly better than cure as they can be difficult and very costly to treat. More importantly, having good mental health not only prevents us from developing mental health issues, it also enhances our ability to create and live out our best lives. It has been scientifically proven that those who are emotionally healthy tend to be more resilient, confident and able to handle life’s challenges with a more positive attitude.

Luckily, taking care of and improving our mental health is hardly rocket science. When given attention on a regular basis, it can actually be quite easy! Here, I’ll highlight five simple tips that I’ve personally found to be helpful in improving overall psychological health and well-being:

1. Set Aside Some ‘Me’ Time

With so much on our plate, we often find ourselves ended up putting our own needs on the back burner. In order to have a healthier state of mind, we need to end this habit and pay more attention to our needs. If this is something that you struggle with, know that self-care is not selfish. Remember that when you tend to your own needs first, you are more likely to be able to offer your best self to others as a result.

Start by making a commitment to do something you enjoy a few times a week. Whether it’s taking a leisurely walk in the park, drawing yourself a bubble bath, reading, or playing with your pet, dedicating some time to indulge in something that gives you joy is a must in maintaining a good state of emotional health and well-being.

2. Practice Meditation

As unbelievable as it sounds, setting aside at least 10 minutes to meditate each day can do wonders for your mental state. Think of daily meditation as an exercise for our brain that offers an abundance of benefits including improved focus, reduced levels of stress, and anxiety as well as mental health maintenance.

In fact, a study done by Harvard Researchersat Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) found that by meditating only for 8 weeks, participants were able to significantly changed the brain’s gray matter, a major part of the central nervous system that is associated with processing information and providing nutrients and energy to neurons. Dr. Britta Holzel, who was part of the team that conducted the study, explained: “It is fascinating to see the brain’s plasticity and that, by practicing meditation; we can play an active role in changing the brain and can increase our well-being and quality of life.”

3. Express Gratitude

Acknowledging our appreciation for the things that we already have enabled us to focus on the good that already exists in our lives and this creates feelings of joy. Appreciation is potent to fight off anxiety and worry because when we feel joy, we feel more excitement and optimism for life.

We can express our gratitude by reading our list of “Thank You’s” out loud before starting out our day every morning, writing it in a gratitude journal and/or simply by quietly expressing gratitude for things and people we are thankful for as we go about our day.

4. Get Adequate Sleep

Countless research found that we are able to best perform and are most energized when we get adequate sleep on a daily basis. Though the exact amount of sleep one needs differfrom one person to another, adults generally need about 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to function optimally and be in a prime state of mind to make important decisions.

If you currently only get about half of the recommended amount of sleep, it’s helpful to start by adding 30 minutes to your normal sleep hours and gradually increase it. Soon enough, you’ll be getting plenty of sleep and be more ready to tackle whatever obstacles life throws at you.

5. Share Your Story

Going through tough times? Keeping it bottled up can be detrimental to your mental health in the long run. So, it’s best to let it out and share your story.

Though many of us find it difficult to share our hardships with others, keep in mind that everyone faces challenges and they may just be able to relate to your experience as well as offer a shoulder to lean on. More importantly, sharing our innermost thoughts to someone we trust and care about, acknowledges that we trust them enough to be vulnerable and often times, ends up bringing the relationship closer.

That said, if you are not ready to divulge your feelings and emotions to loved ones, I recommend for you to seek out a licensed mental health professional (a counselor/therapist/psychologist) and make an appointment. Alternatively, you can also call a mental health support hotline available in your area that will give you some support as well as the comforting reassurance that you’re not alone.

 

An Easy-to-Use Guide to Incidental Mindfulness: A Mini Rest for the Busy Brain

busymind
Artwork created by Author Felicity Mary Cross

Do you constantly live in the future, or in the past? Are you constantly planning ahead or thinking over and over about past events?  Do you experience a million racing thoughts, like what groceries to buy, did you put the washing on, have you paid bills, when to pick up the kids and who’s going to what sports and when?

We live in an era of business. We are constantly on the move, juggling multiple jobs, roles and responsibilities. No previous generation has been as time poor, or had as many competing concerns as we have, it is a chaotic affair just to juggle work and children and life. And all those constant and intrusive thoughts make for busy heads. Being busy by definition means we have little time to counteract this with relaxation or rest, let alone any great mental health relaxation training techniques. Who has the time for meditation, not I and I bet not you!

Mindfulness is a buzz word we hear a lot these days, but the positive effects of Mindfulness training are not disputed because it works. Mindfulness is literally a practice that involves pulling our thoughts back from that chaotic level of everyday thought, and thinking purely in the moment.

Focusing on what’s being experienced right now. In Mindfulness practice, we are promoting a certain quieting of the busy mind. Unlike meditation where you are required to empty your mind of thoughts which can be quite difficult without extensive practice, mindfulness practice allows you to still let your mind work and let thoughts occur. The point is to make these thoughts moment specific and simple.

The theory is that by doing this simple exercise you can reduce stress and increase your well-being. But again who has time to follow a mindfulness regime?

The answer is all of us. We don’t have to make mindfulness a long drawn out affair; we can practice a simplified form called Incidental Mindfulness. Incidental Mindfulness is literally taking a small moment in your day to practice Mindfulness; this moment can literally be 30 seconds to a few minutes, for example:

  • When you are washing up, try to stop your busy thoughts and really focus on being in the moment, making your thoughts specific to that very moment: how does the warm water feel on your hands, how the soap feels against your skin, slippery against the dishes. Try to quiet your thoughts by just focusing on what you are feeling and being fully present and planted in that moment.
  • Or, sit wherever you happen to be and focus on your surroundings. Again try to quiet your mind and let go of the chaotic everyday thoughts and think about how your body feels sitting in the chair, be aware of your surroundings, smells, sounds, and sights, let the thoughts flow in and out of your mind i.e. I hear a bird chirping, a car driving by, my legs are relaxed or sore. Noticing immediate feelings and thoughts, being fully present in that moment and in that place.
  • When you are eating or drinking, for example having a cup of tea. Take a moment to stop and think about how the cup feels warm in your hands, how the tea tastes, the sensation of the warm tea down your throat, if you can smell your tea. Noticing all the physical sensations of drinking your tea, and how that makes you feel, again being fully present and pulling your thoughts right back to the immediate sensations and thoughts.
  • When you are in the shower focusing on washing your body, try using your non-dominate hand (if you are right handed or try using your left hand). Fully noticing your motions/actions and how that feels, if it is awkward or uncomfortable; how your skin feels and the sensation of the wash cloth on your skin, the sound of the running water. Looking intently at your hands, your legs, noticing all your limbs, how they look and how they feeling. Again fully noticing all your physical sensations, using your senses, touch, smell, sight and hearing.

As you can see anyone can practice Incidental Mindfulness, at any time, in any place! Find an activity that works for you, and one that is easy and non-disruptive to your busy life. This practice is meant to reduce stress, not add stress, so please remember the one and only rule: keep it simple. We wish you improved health and well-being through helpful, easy-to-use Incidental Mindfulness to begin de-cluttering your busy brains.

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