Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Mental health for ourselves and our children is a big topic of discussion these days in schools and in families. I think we all can agree that it is really important and there are many different tools that we can use to promote our mental health for our entire lives. For me, my meditation and yoga practice is really important. On a regular basis I am quiet and I come face to face with the thoughts, habits and conditions of my mind. I can see clearly what is going on when I am still A mindfulness based meditation practice has given me tools to calm and soothe my mind and body, and then enquire into what is going on. I have learned to ask myself good questions, and to investigate what is really true and what is made up. And this work is done gently and with humour and slowly over many years. It is a soft path that keeps slowing me down and tuning into what is really going on. One of my big challenges is that I am a person who is prone to rumination. I’ve learned this about myself. I think about things over and over and I can easily get stuck in a story for a day, a week or even longer. Even though the event or circumstance may have changed, I can easily stay stuck. And that only causes grief for myself. The story or person I am ruminating about has likely moved onto something else and I am stuck and suffering. Meditation has enabled me to see that part of my mind, to observe that habit and then choose to act differently. I don’t always do it well, or quickly but I keep on working at it.
I recently read an article called What Hiking Does To The Brain Is Pretty Amazing by Michael Pirrone. It talks about the benefits of hiking for the brain and mental health. The first point he talks about is how being in nature clears your head. “According to a study published last July in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a 90-minute walk through a natural environment had a huge positive impact on participants. In a survey taken afterwards, those people who took the natural walk showed far lower levels of brooding, or obsessive worry.” I think this whole idea of brooding, worrying and ruminating is pervasive in our culture and gets reinforced by all of our exposure to media. We are all constantly being bombarded of images, stories and advertising to make us feel like we need more, or need to look differently in order to be well. The technology is good for lots of things, but too much of it causes us to be distracted and disconnected from nature and human relationships. This is why we all need to get outside and go for a walk or a hike every day. Even if it just a short walk. It gets you out of your head and into your body. And while it is the job of the schools to promote mental health and well being, it all starts at home.