Get Outside During Mental Health Awareness Month

All, Stories

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness month? Physical health is a significant part of you, but mental health, in my opinion, is more important than anything else. Struggling with depression myself, it is so important for me to give myself some solid rest and relaxation.

A lot of times, we are so consumed with life around us that we forget about our own self-worth. The kids have a baseball game (or three) this week. Dance practice every Tuesday. Homework every night. Eating dinner. Cleaning the house. Doing the laundry. Showering and getting ready for work every morning.

Most days we are on autopilot: Wake up. Get dressed. Repeat.

Breaking the norm and adding variety to your week can help break that mental auto pilot. So many times I make it home from a long day at work and I ask myself, “How did I get here? Did I drive the same route as always? Were there still flowers on my favorite tree right by the office? Did I use my turn signal when I changed lanes?”

You hear it all the time – take care of yourself first. But, do you actually turn those words into an action? Do you slow down to think about where your mental health is, or do you suppress your emotions? Do you think, “Not me?” Or, “I’m fine?” Yeah, I used to think that too. Even if you’re at complete peace with where you are at in life, there can still be underlying problems that you have pushed so far down, you forgot about it. Don’t forget about those issues; make peace with them so that you can move forward from them.

One of the best ways that I have found to give myself some mental health love is to get outside. Studies have shown that walking in the woods can improve blood pressure, lessen stress and decrease the risk of cancer.

When I am in nature, completely detached from the world and reality for even just a little bit, I am able to sort through what I feel. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I even just scream it out. My point is, I found a place where I can be me. Where I can connect with my deepest thoughts and talk it out with myself and my spiritual side.

All photos courtesy Jenn Spreckelmeier at Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana.

Recently, I took a personal day from work and spent the day hiking in the woods. I saw a dozen waterfalls, walked through a bat cave tunnel, splashed in the water, got my boots dirty and sat on a cliff and just breathed in the fresh air while I listened to the birds chirp and the waterfall run over the edge of the rock. After several very stressful weeks, this was exactly what I needed. I came back to work the following Monday and felt so rejuvenated and happy! And it’s OK to take that time for yourself. Because a mentally healthy person is more productive, happy and successful than one who ignores the pain and signals their body is sending them.

So, get outside. Go forest-bathing. Soak in some sun on the water. Ride a bike. Play a round of golf with your buds. Read a book on a bench. Take a walk – without the headphones. Leave your phone somewhere else, or let it die. Just be present and be outside. You’ll be amazed at what that can do for you. You are important. You are worthy. Fall in love with you!

This article elaborates more about how spending time outside is beneficial to both physical and mental health.

Jenn Spreckelmeier
Conservation & Parks Administrator