Each May, we observe Mental Health Month – a tradition created to bring awareness to the importance of mental health in our lives. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition, and in our fast-paced world that values productivity to the point of burnout, it’s no wonder so many of us struggle.
In our never-ending pursuit of success and fulfillment (usually defined by wealth and status), we inevitably burn out, feeling empty, hopeless, and exhausted. Our mental health dips, and soon we’re dealing with feelings of depression and anxiety that can be hard to shake. But hope is not lost – by shifting our collective mindset from life in the fast lane to intentional slow living, we can learn to be present and truly enjoy the moments that matter.
Not sure where to start? Lucky for you, slow living is sort of our thing. Here are 3 ways you can use the practice of slow living to protect and improve your mental health.
1. Prioritize the Important Things
Slow living is all about cultivating a life around the people, activities, and moments that bring you joy. In order to start building a more intentional life, you need to create space for the things that matter by letting go of the unnecessary. Begin by making a list of how you spend your time every day. Are there things that don’t serve your wellbeing, like too much screen time, a draining relationship, or working after hours? Identify what isn’t in line with your personal peace, so you can begin exploring how to replace that time with people or activities that reduce stress and promote happiness. While this process can seem daunting or even scary, don’t worry! Start small – try swapping in one mindful practice at a time – and be patient with yourself. It’s about progress, not perfection.
2. Listen to Your Body
Connecting to your body is one of the fundamental aspects of improving your mental health and embracing a slower, more mindful lifestyle, because your body is amazing at knowing exactly what it needs in a given moment. Tune in by taking a few minutes each day to feel the physical sensations in your body. How is your heart rate, your breathing? Are your muscles relaxed, or are they tense or sore? Take note. If you need rest, ground yourself with deep, calming breaths, relax your muscles, or take a power nap. If you need energy, have a nourishing snack, stretch, or put on your favorite Lizzo song and take a dance break. Showing love to your body is showing love to yourself – and you deserve it!
3. Get in Touch With Nature
In a world of screens, social media, and a 24-hour news cycle, our lives can feel loud and chaotic. Not to sound like your mom, but she’s right (isn’t she always?) – the best thing for your physical and mental wellbeing when you’re feeling overwhelmed is to put the phone down, close the laptop, and get outside.
According to Leave No Trace, several recent studies have found that taking walks in nature notably decreases both anxiety and depression. And it’s no wonder – the natural world teaches us to slow down, reflect, and be present in the moment. By embracing a slower lifestyle, we are taking notes from the natural world: living in harmony with the seasons, appreciating the beauty of the life around us, and savoring each moment as it comes.
To boost your mental health and shift your mindset to one of living intentionally, take a few minutes each day to reconnect with nature. Go for a walk, work in your garden, soak up the sunshine at the beach, take your lunch in the park. Unplug, breathe in the fresh air, and let your mind, body, and spirit revel in the beauty of the world around you. Trust us – you’ll be glad you did.
Happy Mental Health Month!