May is a magical month! When the temperature finally tops 60, 70, even 80 degrees, Mother Nature bursts onto the scene in a vivid array of colors, textures, aromas, and sounds. Perhaps that’s one reason why the nonprofit organization Mental Health America picked May as Mental Health Month − because bearing witness to springtime’s rebirth is uplifting and, on some level, even spiritually healing.  Add longer days of light and we have the ingredients for clarity.

What better way to attend to your own mental health this month than by taking some time to experience Mother Nature? A recent study by the University of British Columbia found that taking time, even a brief few minutes, to notice and appreciate nature in all its forms – from the most majestic mountain range to a small, bright yellow dandelion growing in a sidewalk crack − can lead to deeper feelings of happiness and wellbeing. And in Japan, the practice of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” which advocates simply being among the trees, has been studied and recommended since the 1980s. Research there and in the U.S. has found that spending time in the woods can help reduce stress, improve mood, and even strengthen immunity.  All this with no side effects!

Why not take a walk, hike, or bike ride through tree-lined paths or along rivers and streams? Or choose a peaceful, natural location such as the beach or a park for your daily meditation, a picnic with family or friends, or an informal moment of reflection. Use your smartphone to photograph what you notice, so you can call up the image whenever you need a quick mental boost. Finally, consider how each of us is just one tiny part of this miraculous planet that somehow manages to sustain us all. Isn’t Mother Nature magical?

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Written by:

Carol Swanson