Wednesday 28 July 2021

How movement, mindfulness, and time outside help me manage my mental health

Ginger shares how she combines mindfulness, movement, and time outdoors to manage her mental health and wellbeing.

- Ginger Abbot

Just like my journey to health and wellness is unique to me, everyone has their own journey that they can follow towards leading a more mindful, healthy, and fulfilling life.

For me, mindfulness, movement, and time outdoors have been critical pieces of my wellness practice. Not only that — they’re habits that have improved my life for the better, which I plan to keep pursuing for years to come. While everyone is different and the mindfulness practices that work for me might not always work for others, I’m grateful for my ability to share my journey.

When I began my wellness journey, there was so much I didn’t know. And while I still have a lot to learn, picking up my three key habits has been a transformative experience. Whether I’m on the ball with my wellness game or I have a lazy day, the positive impact of my commitment to wellness is able to carry me through. Here are some of the ways that I implement healthy habits for mental health, and how mindfulness helps manage mental health in my world.

1. Mindfulness, little by little

Mindfulness is defined as the practice of remaining grounded in the present moment by using the sensations, sounds, and visual elements around you. 

When I first started out with mindfulness, this was a sort of daunting idea, so instead of trying to engage in mindfulness constantly, I found little moments that could serve as venues for my mindfulness. Over time, it grew bigger and bigger, as habits often do.

2. Finding activities I love

Everybody pretty much knows about the benefits of exercise for mental health — releasing endorphins, improving your mood, and fostering the connection between the mind and body.

However, sometimes exercise can feel like a drag. It’s okay to admit that working out takes effort. If it didn’t, I’d probably be doing it wrong. The key for me that actually helps me stick to it is finding activities that I truly enjoy doing. I don’t love hitting the gym, but I do love taking walks outside, doing yoga, and riding my bike. These are activities that I find easy to return to again and again.

3. Getting outside once a day

This one will likely come as no surprise, as I’ve been vocal about how time outside improves mental health. I can’t always explain it logically, but going outside often makes me feel better, even when I’m having a particularly bad day.

Research shows that spending as little as 10 minutes a day in green spaces can improve mood and reduce stress. While I enjoy getting outside for longer than that, sometimes a little bit is all I need.

4. Fostering the mind-body connection

One of the biggest parts of improving my mental health with wellness practices has been fostering and recognising the connection between my mind and my body.

Before I had a strong handle on the direct impact of wellness practices on my health, it was sometimes hard to stick to them. But when I make a point to notice the way mindfulness meditation makes me feel in my body or the mental payoff of a great workout, it’s much more motivating to stick to my practices.

5. Combining my practices

My biggest and most helpful tip for using mindfulness, movement, and outdoor time to manage my mental health is combining my practices. Often, I get into a wellness headspace when I want to accomplish some of these tasks for the day, and doing them at once can often give me all the benefits I need without the possibility of stopping and not returning to my wellness.

I love to practice yoga, which combines mindfulness and movement into one. I love to work out in nature or practice mindfulness walking meditations when I want to have a more active mindfulness practice. Often, this can be the push I need to get on a bit of a roll.

6. Movement, mindfulness, and nature

While my mental health won’t be the same as anybody else’s, I still believe that these habits can enact some positive change in anyone who is open to it. What are some of your favourite wellness practices?

Find out more about what you can do to improve your wellbeing on Student Space.

Ginger Abbot is a student life and education writer who is currently enrolled in graduate school part-time. She also serves as Editor-in-Chief for the online learning magazine

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