The state of mental health in the country is alarming. According to the CDC, around 1 in 5 adults experiences mental illness, while 1 in 25 adults is diagnosed with a serious condition like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Unfortunately, while these conditions are manageable, pursuing treatment for them can be difficult.

Across the board, not only are mental health aids limited, but they’re also costly. A recent report on the accessibility of mental health care explained that therapy alone can cost upwards of $200 per session without insurance. On top of this, there is a lack of specialists in rural or impoverished areas, with over 112 million Americans living in areas where mental health support is scarce. This has forced many people with limited means to make do with their mental illness, no matter how debilitating it may be.

Fortunately, while expert-led mental health treatments are still ideal, there are other accessible ways to help improve your well-being. Here are a few of them:

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is a state of being where you’re fully present and aware. For mental health, this clarity can help prevent you from being too overwhelmed. One of the easiest mindfulness practices is meditation. All you need is a little quiet space to be still for at least a minute and focus on your breath. Alternatively, if you’re the type of person who needs to move, you can also try yoga. Because yoga is just as focused on the mind as it is on the body, a few more reasons to start doing yoga include improved flexibility, strength, and pain management. Nowadays, there are also plenty of yoga variations, like desk or chair yoga, which means there’s an option for everyone. A more active mindfulness practice, yoga classes are available for free in some community centers and video streaming platforms.

Immerse in nature

Humans are meant to be in nature, so it’s no surprise that better mental health is one of the benefits of being in green spaces. For starters, research shows that the tranquility of nature helps the mind recover from the daily hustle and bustle of urban life. This can help with focus, awareness, and memory. At the same time, some evidence suggests that nature’s color palette is naturally soothing to the eye. This is especially true in metropolitan areas, where the greens, blues, and browns can offer reprieve. Finally, being out in nature exposes you to sunlight. Regular sun exposure, so long as you’re wearing sunscreen, can help regulate moods and sleep patterns. In most places, anyone is free to visit local parks or wildlife centers for some peace.

Connect with others

Socialization is a key component of overall wellness. By connecting with others, you can find support and encouragement to motivate you. At the same time, meeting with like-minded people can open you up to their life experiences, which may prove helpful to you, too. This is why bonding with loved ones is recommended, especially when trying to reduce stress during trying seasons. If meeting in person is too hard, you can always use technology with calls, virtual hangouts, or even remote activities like streaming films together or playing online games.

Pick up a new hobby

According to Utah State University, hobbies can greatly improve your mental health. This is because it stimulates the mind and helps moods. After all, when you’re doing something that interests you, your brain is more likely to release mood-regulating hormones like endorphins while also lowering stress hormones like cortisol. At the same time, letting your brain learn new things improves brain plasticity. This refers to the brain’s ability to adapt, which is crucial for cognition and overall wellness. Picking up a new hobby need not be expensive, either. Depending on your lifestyle, it can be as simple as learning to knit or reading a book.

Make time for rest

Finally, don’t forget to rest! Lots of people view resting as laziness, but this is actually an important time for the body to recover. Regarding mental health, sleeping well can help by improving cognitive function and hormonal levels. This means your stress-related hormones are under better control, and you’re less likely to feel overburdened by your thoughts. The best way to get your rest is during bedtime. Aim for at least seven hours a night for the best results. If sleeping well is a challenge, try to make your surroundings more conducive by avoiding bright lights, warm temperatures, and gadgets before heading to bed.

Article written by Renee Jules

Exclusively for The Penticton and Area Access Society