At the Integrative Health Institute, we see the value in working together to get optimal results for our clients. “Two heads are better than one” is an idea that helps us see a client as a whole person (because you are a whole person, not just a sore back, an anxious socializer, or a blood test result). This got me thinking: Why not use an integrative approach to your mental health care? Let’s start mixing it up to gain better results! I’ve got your combo packs right here:
Mesh your movement and your social life.
Who made the rule that social hour has to take place over coffee, brunch, lunch, or drinks? While it’s wonderful to come together over food, we can also come together over yoga. Or power walking. Or rock climbing. Or skating. Maybe even a date to go out dancing… what a way to build a romantic connection with a new love interest! The benefits of exercise or physical movement are plentiful for your mental health… as is spending time with friends. Create a double whammy positive effect by relocating your usual Starbucks date to something physical that you both enjoy. You don’t have to be too ambitious if it’s not your thing just yet. Chat about your lives while you walk around the block or the Lakeshore, and maybe together you can build up to something more intense. You’ll both come away feeling energized.
Spend time in nature and jumpstart your creativity.
Getting out of the rut of city life can have an excellent effect on your sense of wellbeing and peacefulness. It forces you to slow down, disconnect, and enjoy your environment. Flexing your creative muscle can be helpful in gaining confidence and encouraging a sense of enjoyment. These two things make a perfect pairing. Allow yourself to be inspired by nature and be less distracted by the city hubbub while you do some creating. Sit down in a local garden and sketch what you see. During a hike, take a break to write a short verse about your experience. Spend some time at the beach and build a sand castle. You don’t need to aim to be the next Picasso or Bob Dylan. This can be just for you. But if you do find yourself in an artistic standstill, getting out into nature can offer you a jumpstart.
Make something delicious while you have a fam jam.
Getting into the kitchen while you spend time with family is a natural combination. Cooking for yourself helps you gain an appreciation for nourishment and encourages self-care. Spending time with family helps your sense of connectedness to those you love and builds memories during quality time and conversations. You may be surprised at how close you can feel to someone after making an incredible pasta sauce or even a pan of brownies from a store-bought mix. No need to enter the kitchen with mad skillz. You can grow your cooking repertoire together!
Create a peaceful mind while you’re on the job.
To some, this may seem like the ultimate oxymoron – a feeling of calm and relaxation… at work?! Not only is this possible, but it is perhaps the most needed combo on this list. Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work and end up trekking home with stress in our shoulders, teeth gritted down to the nerve, and an exhausted brain. While I have no doubt that you’re busy, I also bet that you can find a minimum of five minutes to dedicate to your mental health. If you’re having trouble justifying it, look at it this way: The healthier your mental state, the more productive you’ll likely be, so the investment in your relaxation will pay off dividends in both your work life and your “I’m a human being” life. Start small. Turn away from your computer for two minutes at a time, three times a day, and spend that time taking deep belly breaths with your hands resting peacefully in your lap. That’s all. Ready to take it next level? Try a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. This is a big name for a simple technique. Seated comfortably, close your eyes and slowly move through each of your muscle groups in your body from head to toe (facial muscles, neck and shoulders, tummy and back, etc.). Squeeze that muscle group to create tension. Then let it go completely. You’ll release the baseline tension that you’re likely holding onto from nine to five. Run through each of your muscle groups twice while doing your deep breathing, and notice how you feel by the end. I’m betting you’ll feel looser, energized, and better equipped to tackle your next work gig. Need more? Check in with your psychotherapist or mental health professional to tailor some exercises to your exact needs.
Everyone knows that the best things come in twos: peanut butter and jelly, beach and ocean, a sock and… the other sock. Show your mental health that “the more, the merrier” applies, and get integrating for maximum benefits!
**Disclaimer: The advice in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace the diagnosis/treatment of a licensed medical or mental health professional.**
Lauren Berger is a Registered Social Worker Psychotherapist providing counselling and psychotherapy at IHI. Check her out at www.laurenberger.ca, drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Twitter: @LaurenBergerMSW, or sneak a peek at her Instagram: laurenberger_msw.