Today is Memorial Day.
For many, it marks the beginning of summer. Some schools have already dismissed, the academic year officially over. It’s the unofficial first camping weekend of the season. It’s a day of picnics and barbeques, of gardening—planting and nurturing vegetables and fruits that will nourish us in the moment and through the next seasons as well as planting beautiful flowers to appreciate and enjoy mindfully.
Memorial Day weekend—the weekend, not the “Day”—is this, yes. The dedicated day, however, is beyond this. Today is a day that we remember, honor, and appreciate soldiers who sacrificed their lives standing for the freedom they valued for everyone. It began in 1865 at the end of the Civil War and continues today as an honor those who have continued to preserve our way of life for 153 years and counting.
To appreciate beauty, to be able to pause, take in the world around you, and enjoy the myriad beautiful things around you is empowering. Appreciating beauty is many things at once. It is a:
- character strength, something inherent within us that we can develop and use to enhance our lives and the lives of others
- mindfulness technique to rein in your thoughts and attention to the here-and-now
- grounding experience that connects you to the physical world (versus the realm of your thoughts and emotions)
By doing the simple act of savoring splendor, you stop your anxious thoughts, worries, stressors, depression, all mental health challenges, and physical health struggles. Certainly, these problems don’t automatically stop and retreat forever when you pause to appreciate beauty. It would be nice, but it doesn’t work that directly. What happens when you pause and appreciate beauty is that you experience a shift in focus and perspective. What happens, though, when it’s hard to find something beautiful to appreciate?
Mindfulness. What, exactly, is it? We hear the term often, yet there is much about mindfulness that remains a mystery. Beyond living in the present moment, what is this practice we call mindfulness?
May 15th, the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, is the first day that the physical copy of The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety is available. Whether you’re catching this on the launch day or far past it, mindfulness is relevant. The more we know (I’m always learning), the better we can use it to decrease anxiety or other challenges and cultivate our lives of wellbeing.
Social anxiety prevents us from fully living our lives. All anxiety does this, of course, but social anxiety does a particularly good job of blocking our movements along the path to our quality life. This anxiety disorder is more of a spectrum of experiences than it is one single form of anxiety. It ranges from shyness (which isn’t a diagnosable disorder) on the mildest end of the spectrum to avoidant personality disorder (this one is so pervasive that it’s categorized as a personality disorder rather than an anxiety disorder.
Social Anxiety Isolates the Real You
“In response to human interaction, either I clam up and can barely speak, or I click into intellectual mode so I can explain something and be done. Idiot.” —Brian Cunningham in My Life in a Nutshell: A Novel.
Social anxiety gets in the way of our human interaction, which includes our interaction with others and with ourselves (because despite how it feels sometimes, we are human and we interact with ourselves.) It involves the fear of judgement; a lack of self-efficacy, that inability to believe in ourselves and capabilities; the habit of overthinking every component of every interaction; a very unhealthy dose of negative, harsh self-talk which of course only fuels the anxiety.
Mindfulness enhances wellbeing. It equips us to deal with what we don’t want, such as problems we don’t have much control over. It also allows us to drastically reduce things that are disrupting our lives, such as anxiety. Pictures reach us and teach us through our visual sense. A photo gallery can bring mindfulness to us aesthetically and show us useful tips for a mindful lifestyle. One that is a collective resource where we all share tips that work for us is a way for everyone to grow. So let’s do it!
For me, mindfulness is something that has helped, and continues to help, me create a quality life, and I’ve worked with wonderful people and have seen mindfulness let them improve their lives. Mindfulness proved to be a calming and empowering tool for students in a school for homeless and runaway adolescents where I worked as the teacher and counselor. It even helped a four-year-old boy in foster care when I was his play therapist.
I love that Mental Health Awareness Month is in May. It’s the height of spring, and flowers are in bloom, leaves are unfurling, and birds are soaring as they build their nests. Signs of life abound when we tune in mindfully to enjoy them. May is the perfect metaphor for mental health (note that the representative color is even green).
Just as the earth is waking up and creating itself anew, so, too, can we. It’s what mental health and wellbeing are all about. This is an ongoing process and spans across all months, but Mental Health Awareness Month shines sunlight on the process on purpose, a reminder that we can take charge of ourselves and our wellbeing. We live an ever flowing journey of creating ourselves anew.
To celebrate mental health awareness month, join the fun and win one of six books in the 2018 mental health book giveaway. Why celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month? Because mental health and wellbeing are something to celebrate. Mental health means many things, but it can be summarized thus:
Mental health and wellbeing mean creating a quality life and embracing en-JOY-ment right now, despite problems and struggles big and small.
Your life well-lived is something to celebrate. Mental Health Awareness Month is something to rejoice. I’m honoring the month (and beyond) in a couple of ways:
- With my new website
- With a mental health book giveaway
Earth day is a wonderful day because it’s about health. As a global society, we intentionally recognize the Earth and the good things it does for all life. This day is a reminder that we’re all in this together, that this planet is for all of us. Together, we all benefit from its health. Together, we all suffer from its illness. Taking this day to connect with the Earth and to thank it for all it does for us is a powerful, positive thing to do. Something incredibly important to remember on Earth Day and every day is how deeply connected to, even dependent upon our planet we are for our mental health and wellbeing.
Below you’ll find some of the myriad ways you can connect with nature every day to boost your wellbeing and life satisfaction. Which ones do you already do? What do you want to add anew or do more of?
Anxiety works its way into our entire being and settles in for the long haul. All types of anxiety disorders do this, as does “ordinary” anxiety, the experience of worry, doubt, fear, etc. that isn’t quite diagnosable as a disorder but is disturbing and bothersome nonetheless.
Anxiety affects us in many ways including the way we think that the thoughts we have. Anxiety is connected to experiences such as overthinking and ruminating. We chew on them repeatedly, the way a cow chews on grass in its original form and in cud form. The more we chew on, or think about, our worries, fears, stresses, and the like, the more we’re paying attention to them. And the more we pay attention to them, the harder they are to swallow. So, like a cow and other ruminants, we regurgitate and ruminate.