August is a time of transition: children waving goodbye to summer camp, parents doing the annual school supplies shopping trip, teachers redecorating their classroom for the new school year, and many of us experiencing the end-of-summer blues. We try to savor every last drop of summer before the cooler and shorter days approach. The pressure to make the most of summer’s ending, while preparing for a new beginning all at once, can leave us feeling physically and mentally exhausted.
It’s no wonder that August is National Wellness Month, the month that prioritizes self-care, stress management, and encourages healthy routines. Wellness is important for a balanced and healthy lifestyle. From getting outside, to unplugging from social media, and moving our body, there are many ways that you can create more wellness in your life. At Handel Behavioral Health, we are taking time to reflect on National Wellness Month, by offering you sustainable habits to help you live healthy and fulfilling lives.
Our trained mental health professionals at our offices in Amherst, Franklin, West Springfield, and Wilbraham Massachusetts are here to support and assist you through any challenges you might be facing. We also offer online services such as teletherapy to accommodate your preferences and schedule. If you or a loved one is in need of mental health support, please contact one of our many counselors, therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists today and find out how we can help you.
Wellness encompasses 8 interdependent elements of life: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental. When these elements are nurtured and kept in balance, our lives feel meaningful, vibrant, and full. Here are some ways we can improve, and think differently, about living healthy and fulfilling lives:
What is wellness?
1. Move your body
Exercise is one of the most transformative ways to improve brain health. Getting outside for a 30-minute walk, practicing yoga first thing in the morning, or challenging yourself with a sweat-inducing workout class are just a few ways to experience the immediate positive effects of exercise on your brain: including improved mood, improved energy levels, improved attention, and improved memory.
While regular exercise isn’t a depression cure-all, loads of research has proven that exercise can reduce or even prevent symptoms of depression. Biologically, exercise improves the prefrontal cortex part of your brain, that’s responsible for critical thinking, planning, and decision making. Your hippocampus, the part that’s associated with formation and retention of long-term memories and facts, also grows with regular exercise.
In addition to the direct affects that exercise has on the brain, moving your body is a great way to improve your self-esteem and self-efficiency. When done in group settings, it can be a great way to strengthen an existing friendship or make a new one.
As for long term improvement goes, regular exercise protects your brain from neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers and normal age-related decline. Keep exercising and live a long life!
2. Go outside!
The majority of American’s spend our days indoors, whether it’s at work or at home with family. Bringing nature to our daily lives and spending time outdoors can significantly improve our mental and physical wellbeing: boosting our mood, improving our confidence and self-worth, helping us relax and be more mindful, improving our physical health, reducing loneliness and helping us make friendships.
3. Practice deep breathing
Breathing is one of those things that every human does, everyday, without hesitation. But how often do you pay attention to your breathing? Are your breaths long and relaxed, or short and shallow?
When we’re feeling stressed out or anxious, our breaths are shortened or delayed, causing the body to tense. Deep breathing techniques and breathing from our diaphragm can slow our heart rate and help us to relax, improve our oxygen levels and increase our energy, force us to straighten our back and improve our posture, and increase our lung capacity and lower our heart rate.
4. Increase your water intake
Hydration is an essential part of our physical and mental health, especially during the hottest days of the year; here’s why:
- Drinking enough water prevents dehydration, which can cause unclear thinking, sluggishness and lower moods, and can lead to kidney problems and constipation.
- Water transports nutrients throughout your body giving you energy and lubricating your joint
- Clear skin, regular digestion, and even weight loss are all side effects of adequate hydration!
Increase your water consumption by carrying a water bottle with you, choosing water over sugary drinks, serving water during meals, and opting for water when dining out.
5. Take a break from social media
The majority of us use social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, or Instagram to stay connected to our friends. But we all know that social media can quickly go from connecting and engaging us, to distancing, overwhelming, and inhibiting us from living authentic and full lives in front of the screen!
Excess social media consumption can isolate us from connecting with our peers in person, decrease our motivation to engage in activities that feel good, interfere with restful sleep, and cause us to compare ourselves and view our lives negatively.
A digital detox can significantly improve your life. You will find greater depth and empathy in your connection with other human beings, when you replace scrolling with socializing. You will feel more productive and engaged without checking your Instagram feed, and worrying about what event you’re missing out on. You will feel grateful, and fulfilled by what and who you have in your life. You will also have a better understanding of your emotions, as your social skills and emotional expression extend beyond the screen.
6. Cut back on the sugar and load up on fruits and vegetables
Did you know that the average American consumes more than 22 teaspoons of sugar each day? It might not be obvious that significant quantities of sugar are found in everything we consume, from salad dressing to granola bars; most of us have surpassed our daily caloric intake of sugar by breakfast.
7. Reach out to your loved ones
With our hectic lives, packed schedules, and devices pinging us from every direction, we can lose sight of how much love we have to give and receive from our friends and family. Staying connected to a strong support system of friends and family helps boost self-confidence, improves our self-worth, reduces stress levels, and leads to a longer and fuller life.
Start by making a list of friendships you’d like to stay connected with regularly. Figure out how to contact your friends, and practice listening actively, showing respect, showing appreciation, and being supportive.
8. Relax and unwind
Everyone finds a different way to unwind and refocus: use this month to explore relaxation techniques that resonate with you.
Relaxation could involve stepping away from your normal routine for a few minutes to stretch or do yoga, following a guided meditation, soaking in a hot bath, reading a chapter of your book, trying out a new recipe, taking a walk with a friend, or playing with a pet. Whatever form of relaxation suits you, focus on integrating it in your daily routine.
The take away
These are just a few habits that we can exercise to care for our physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental health. When these eight dimensions of wellness are equally cared for, through practicing daily habits, we live in personal harmony with ourselves and others.