Anxiety, depression and PTSD are mental illnesses that affect our daily lives. Doctors, psychologists and counsellors play their vital role in aiding recovery but let’s step back a bit. What is it that causes mental health issues and is there something we can do to give ourselves some self aid?
Mental health concerns can arise from a multitude of sources – some from traumatic childhood experiences, some from being isolated – be that forced or part of a new working from home set up, and often a person processing early abuse or neglect can reach for harmful substances in order to self-soothe.
There is much talk about exercise and the amazing benefits it gives towards keeping our minds and bodies healthy, but often the thought of being in a gym, surrounded by weights and weightlifters and all those mirrors can be a trigger for mental anguish.
Exercise, simply put, is a physical and/or mental activity that you do to stay healthy and become stronger. You don’t have to be on a treadmill!
Let’s replace “exercise” with therapy. Daily therapeutic activities that you enjoy don’t cost the earth and can be done by yourself, with friends or with that four legged companion.
- Walking in the woods
- Walking on the sea shore
- Walking in the hills/mountains
All of these have the same benefits as gym sessions and not only invigorate the body but also liberate the mind. So let’s look at number one: a walk in the woods.
- Clothing to suit the environment
- A little snack and hot/cold drink
- A book, a drawing pad and pencil
- A pocket knife.
Pick any woodland in NI. You might have to drive there but if you can walk to it then that is good also.
Walk slowly taking small steps and stop often.
Don’t just hear, listen to the sounds as you walk. Try to pin point what each sound is and where it is coming from.
Look up, look down and look all around.
Feel the wind, the rain the coolness and the heat.
Think about what you hear see and feel.
Find a tree that speaks to you and settle down beneath it to have your snack or drink. A hot flask of coffee is my go-to!
Take off your footwear and socks and feel the earth beneath your feet while relaxing. This is called Grounding and it is an ancient proven technique that connects our bodies to the earth and recharges through ionic transfer.
Close your eyes, ease your senses and let your mind drift off.
Activate your brain in that place by reading a book, sketching what you see or just make marks on your pad in tune to the rhythm you have created in that place. Grab a small piece of wood and whittle something with your knife, let the wood dictate what it will be.
You don’t have to take any photos or even take out your phone from your pocket. Capture everything in your mind, it’s about you and you alone – no-one else needs to know!
When you return home continue to think about your day out in the woods and plan your next trip!
Belfast Coffee Company sponsors Men’s Health feature by NI Survivor co-founder Paul Moore.