A few weeks ago, we discussed lifestyle approaches to improve our mental health. I wanted to take some time and discuss a few more lifestyle approaches that we can utilize.
We were created to be social creatures. Having a supportive community can have a positive effect on our mental health. A community provides us with a sense of well-being. Community provides us with a group that we are part of. It can strengthen us through mutual support. You know someone has your back. Friendships and depression are inversely related, meaning as your close relationships increase your rates of depression decrease (1). You do not need to change who you are as a person. Some people enjoy lots of friendships, others thrive with a few close friends.
I know many of us have experienced a breakdown in our friendships and community. If you are looking to increase your friend circle a great place to start is with your interest and hobbies. It is interesting how easy it can be to connect when we find others with similar interests. Classes, clubs, and meet ups are great places to start. Church can provide a community, though it is important to get involved in small groups and Bible studies. Getting involved in the smaller groups allows you to make deep connections.
Time in Nature
Nature is all around us and we often take it for granted, but its effect on our mental well-being should remind us to cherish it. The Japanese coined a term “forest bathing”, which this entails spending time in nature and observing it. This is something that was common 150 years ago, but in our hustle and bustle culture we often miss quality time in nature. Studies have shown that those suffering from depression are 17 times as likely to recover when taking time to observe nature and appreciate its beauty compared to those participating in no treatment or conventional care (2).
Time in nature does not have to be a difficult process. Just going to a small park and spending 15 minutes per day has been shown to be beneficial. Take this time to observe the world around you. You can enjoy a walk or just find a comfortable place to sit. I often come back from these brief sessions refreshed and ready to tackle my day. “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this.” Job 12: 7-9? Spending this intentional time in nature brings us into connection with the Creator of the universe.
Use of Screens
Continually in our society we find ourselves needing to use electronic devices. And while these devices can be a great tool, they do not come without risks. In children ages 2017 the more time they spend on screens is associated with a lower well-being. Electronic screen time has been shown to decrease curiosity, self-control, and emotional intelligence in the same population. When comparing high to low levels of screen time use those with high levels reported twice the among of anxiety and depression (3). What about adults? Research has demonstrated similar findings. As screen time increases, rates of depression increase. This occurs even if we account for the decrease in physical activity that often accompanies as screen time increases. It is interesting to note that screen time does not increase our social connectedness or our time in nature.
Seek to minimize time on screens especially non-work-related activities on screens and social media. Take the time to connect with the people around you and enjoy the physical space that you are in. The real world is fascinating!
Please remember if you are experiencing a mental health crisis please reach out to SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or call 911.
May Your Health Prosper,
Elizabeth Perry, DNP
- Marver, J. E., Galfalvy, H. C., Burke, A. K., Sublette, M. E., Oquendo, M. A., Mann, J. J., & Grunebaum, M. F. (2017). Friendship, Depression, and Suicide Attempts in Adults: Exploratory Analysis of a Longitudinal Follow‐Up Study. Suicide and Life‐Threatening Behavior, 47(6), 660-671.
- Rosa, C. D., Larson, L. R., Collado, S., & Profice, C. C. (2021). Forest therapy can prevent and treat depression: Evidence from meta-analyses. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 57, 126943.
- Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 12, 271-283.
- Kotera, Y., Richardson, M., & Sheffield, D. (2022). Effects of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) and nature therapy on mental health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 20(1), 337-361.