May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but what can you do to raise awareness that doesn’t seem—preachy?
Every year, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) introduces a different method for highlighting mental health. For example, in 2022, NAMI is amplifying the message of “Together for Mental Health.”
Everyone experiences a mental health crisis at some point: from the burliest of men to the most reserved women. The curveballs that life hurls at you are not meant to be buried deep to avoid sadness, fear, or anger.
Instead, sharing these stories can help alleviate your pain and frustration. By talking about your struggles (whether that’s to a massive online audience or to a single friend), you’ll begin to realize just how much you’re not alone.
Like a broken arm, your mental health can only get stronger if you tend to it properly. Below you’ll find a few methods to help you (or a loved one) start small on your mental health awareness journey.
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When is Mental Health Awareness Month?
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. However. October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month, so you may have gotten these two confused in the past.
Here are other times of the year when you can spread mental health awareness:
- INTERNATIONAL BOOST SELF ESTEEM MONTH – FEBRUARY
- WORLD TEEN MENTAL WELLNESS DAY – MARCH 2, 2023
- NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS WEEK – MAY 10-16, 2022
- WORLD HEALTH DAY – APRIL 7, 2022
- NATIONAL MINORITY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH – JULY 2022
- SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK – SEPTEMBER 4-10, 2022
- NATIONAL CHILD HEALTH DAY – OCTOBER 3, 2022
- NATIONAL FORGIVENESS & HAPPINESS DAY – OCTOBER 7, 2022
- WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY – OCTOBER 10, 2022
- LGBT CENTER AWARENESS DAY – OCTOBER 19, 2022
5 Hobbies That Improve Mental Heath
For some, admitting their mental health is in turmoil is hard to do. It’s even harder to recognize.
Here are some signs you may be having a mental health crisis.
There are plenty of hobbies that improve mental health for those who have never addressed their psychological wounds (or those who want to practice discreetly).
Here are 5 simple ways you can start improving your mental health.
RELATED: Childhood Anxiety Symptoms and How to Help
#1: Mental Health Yoga Exercises
If you want to read about the actual science, check out my post on the benefits of breathing deeply. In summary, deep breathing exercises regulate your nervous system to give you better control of your mind, mood, and body.
It seems almost impossible that 5 minutes of breathing can improve our mental health. And while it doesn’t work in every circumstance and isn’t a cure, breathing and mental health yoga exercises are the only resources you have on hand 24/7.
Don’t have time or resources to enroll in a yoga class? The Seated Cat and Cow is a yoga exercise you can try right now while reading this blog!
Before you start, take out your phone Notes app or a piece of paper and write down how you feel right now. Then, try the exercise:
AFTER: Write down how you feel after trying the Cat and Cow. Take note of the difference in your mental health before and after the exercise.
Did it help?
#2: Spend Time Alone… or with Family
It’s hard to know whether you’re craving alone time or you need to be around people more. Take some time this month to try both.
Take yourself on a date and do all of your favorite things. If that doesn’t help (or you hate spending time with yourself), call a friend or family member.
It’s important to be open and honest about your mental health. However, if you’re not ready, make the day about them! After all, studies indicate that helping others boosts our psychological needs.
Offer to take them to their favorite restaurant or come over for movie night. Whatever it takes to get that bonding time in.
Don’t have anyone to call? Try building an online community through social media. Remember, you’re never alone. In fact, join me here. I would love to have you.
RELATED: 5 Calming Strategies for Kids
#3: Exercise (Fun, Fun!)
You might not want to hear it (at first), but exercise is detrimental to your mental health. Did you know that “out of 1,158 studies examined, 89% found a statistically significant, positive association between physical activity or exercise and mental health“?
Need to see it for yourself? Make a plan to exercise for ten minutes today. Try one of these free options:
- Take a walk around the block or in a park (bring a friend!)
BEFORE you start: take out your phone Notes app or a piece of paper and write down how you feel right now.
AFTER: Write down how you feel after stretching or moving your body for 10 minutes. Take note of the difference in your mental health before and after the exercise.
Did it help?
RELATED: How To Stop a Panic Attack and Why It May Not Be Working
#4: Mental Health Journal Ideas
I didn’t know how much journaling could improve my mental health until I started doing it consistently.
Writing down how you feel before and after breathing or regular exercise is one way you can start.
If you’re new to journaling, you’ll want to keep it simple. Don’t bother looking for new prompts every day. Instead, use the mental health journal instructions below to start journaling with consistency.
Mental health journal ideas:
- Describe how you feel;
- Write why you think you feel that way;
- Explore ideas on how you can make it better;
- Write 1 full-page stream-of-consciousness
The goal is to get all those thoughts out of your head and onto paper. It’ll give your brain more room to “breath” and feel at ease.
RELATED: The Benefits of Nose Breathing vs. Mouth Breathing
#5: Talk To Someone
Sometimes we just don’t have the patience to wait out our mental struggles. If you feel a sense of impending doom that won’t go away (whether you have tried these hobbies or not), you need to talk to someone.
Right now, I encourage you to pick up your phone. Look at your contacts list and call the first person that pops into your head.
Don’t be embarrassed. Chances are, they’ve had their own mental health struggles and know exactly how you feel.
Can’t think of anyone to call? Your primary doctor is an excellent place to start. Otherwise, here are a few numbers you can contact:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255
- (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
All of these are hobbies that improve mental health, but one of these on its own cannot be the final cure for your mental health. It takes consistency, awareness, and a little vulnerability.