In light of Stress Awareness Month, Annie Button an independent writer has written about how mindfulness activities can reduce feelings of stress and depression. Read more here.

There is so much going on around us in today’s world that can give us feelings of anxiety, stress and depression. From world conflicts and the lingering pandemic to environmental concerns, there is a lot of distressing information and activity around the world.

It’s thought that up to 7% of adults are diagnosed with depression with people ranging from 12-25 years old impacted the most. As individuals, we can only do so much to make a difference in these global matters but what we can control more closely is our own happiness.

At Hull & East Yorkshire Mind, April is stress awareness month and to mark it, we are looking at mindfulness activities that can help to reduce feelings of stress and depression.

Cooking and experimenting in the kitchen

Few things can make people happy the way that food does. Cooking up a storm in the kitchen benefits your mental health in several ways, plus there is always a delicious treat to enjoy at the end!

Julie Ohana, founder of Culinary Art Therapy, says, “Cooking at home is good for your mental health because cooking is an act of patience, mindfulness, an outlet for creative expression, a means of communication, and helps to raise one’s self-esteem”.

Whether it be mastering a technique like making bread or trying as many different recipes as you can find, there’s always something to experiment with in the kitchen. You can achieve a sense of accomplishment through cooking while giving your creativity a shot in the arm.

Mindfulness colouring books

Doing something creative is a great mindfulness activity but sometimes it can be frustrating if you find you have limited technical skills. As we are looking at ways to reduce the feelings of stress and depression we think that using colouring books is a great creative outlet.

They don’t require the technical drawing skills or the need to create an image or pattern as all you have to do is colour inside the lines. In fact, you don’t even have to stay inside the lines if your creative juices begin to flow!

Restoration projects

What could be more rewarding than taking something old and pre-loved that has fallen into disrepair and restoring it to its former glory? From bringing furniture back to life to redecorating rooms or even something as ambitious as restoring an old car, finding a project to sink your teeth into can change your mindset. Now you have something to focus on and slowly but surely you will see the progress unfold before your eyes.

You can work in partnership with a restoration expert whose enthusiasm will shine through and who can impart valuable knowledge to assist with the most difficult aspects. For instance, the experts at Mercedes-Benz restoration experts, John Haynes Mercedes, have dedicated their lives to their craft and guide people through the process of perfectly restoring classic cars.

Asking for opinions and advice from experts like these adds invaluable help and ensures your project doesn’t get stuck halfway through. Seeing it through to the end allows you to stay focused and then revel in the fruits of your labour.

Gardening

Nature is proven to boost mental health, mood and physical health while reducing feelings of stress. The great thing about gardening is that it can be done in large or small spaces.

Increasing your time spent in green spaces lessens the impact of depression and anxiety while engaging in gardening activities through digging and weeding encourages mindfulness. Having a cluster of plants to nurture and grow increases your mobility while giving you some extra vitamin D.

Spending a few hours in the garden can burn as many calories as an hour in the gym! Following seasonal trends can see gardeners growing a variety of produce throughout the year and learning to adapt to the challenges of the British weather.

Photography

The benefits of nature can be enjoyed further through the art of photography. Modern phones are advanced enough that you don’t even need to go out and buy a fancy camera to get print-worthy shots.

Finding amazing photography opportunities also doesn’t have to mean travelling around the world. You can find inspiration from the flowers and fauna in your garden or through portraits of people in towns and cities across the country.

Photography promotes mindfulness as the lens becomes an extension of your mind, allowing your subconscious to take over and do what it takes to find a great image. The need to remain calm and focused allows negative thoughts to disappear and be replaced by your desire to create beautiful, honest and timeless photos.

Yoga

Mindfulness is an important component of practising yoga and the two activities enhance each other. Yoga is an activity that encourages practitioners to slow things down by focusing on their breathing and movement. It is a form of meditation with the added benefit of increasing your physical wellbeing.

Yoga has been shown to strengthen the heart, by reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and heart rate. Some of the poses in yoga may help you to remove physical blockages in muscle knots which allows for an emotional and tension release.

Digital detox

We touched upon the fact that the world is a difficult place to live in during the current climate. One aspect of life that only seems to exacerbate feelings of stress and depression is social media. Studies have shown that using social media can increase feelings of depression and loneliness.

Taking a digital detox is a great way to shut out all of the noise from social media and get back to doing some activities ‘off the grid’. You could try one day per month, or even per week, to switch off your phone and read a book, go for a walk, start some knitting or begin working on DIY projects. Doing a digital detox and engaging in another mindfulness activity is like a double whammy of positivity.

The Name Game

Perhaps you are looking for something that can help you feel less stressed and depressed in just a few moments. That’s where the Name Game comes into its own.

The premise is a simple one; first, name three things around you that you can hear, two things you can see and one sensation you feel. In a matter of a few minutes you are, “grounding yourself by increasing your awareness of your body and your environment,” says therapist Magdalene Martinez.

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