This week – 9 – 15 May – is Mental Health Awareness Week. With the pandemic, turbulent world events and cost of living pressures, it’s more important than ever that we are proactive in taking care of our mental health.
We have pulled together some tips and advice to help you look after your own mental health as well as that of your children.
Spend time outdoors and in nature
Getting outside for a walk was one of the few things we were able to do during lockdowns, and it may well have helped many of us to stay mentally healthy as well as physically fit. There’s a wealth of evidence that shows exercise is good for the mind as well as the body, and some doctors are even prescribing exercise and time in nature as treatment for conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Studies also show that outdoor play and time spent in natural environments is highly beneficial for the mental wellbeing of children. With the weather improving, encourage the kids to play in the garden if you have one, or plan a trip to the park. Gamify the experience to make it more fun; a simple game of ‘I spy’, or a challenge such as “who can count the most red flowers?” can help kids to engage with the environment and get their brains working away from their screens.
Check out our latest issue for a double page feature on spending time outdoors.
Games such as ‘I spy’ are not just a great way to keep kids occupied; it also helps them to pay attention to their surroundings and to live in the moment, ie being mindful. Yoga and Tai Chi are great activities suitable for many ages and abilities which help us to stay grounded in the moment and disconnect from daily worries.
Creating a mandala is a great creative activity that the family can do together, and can be combined with outdoor time too. Collect stones, sticks, leaves and other natural materials while out on a walk in the park, and create a circular repeating design. They can be as simple or elaborate as you like!
Make time to talk
As simple as it sounds, it’s really easy to get caught up in the fast pace of life and not make time to sit down and chat with our partners/spouses and kids. A great way to make time to talk is to sit around a table together for a meal, even if it’s only once a week.
Sitting down together for a shared activity such as crafting or doing a jigsaw is another great way to make the time for conversation in our families. An activity like this is a great way to bring the family together with something to focus on which also allows for natural conversation.
Try conversation starters – create little cards with questions or prompts that inspire conversation such as “What was the most fun thing you did today?” or “What is one new thing you learned this month?” Everybody takes turn to pick a card and answer their questions. The answers should prompt conversations and can allow the family to have a catch up in the midst of their busy lives.