I was reading the other day about the six good doctors we need in our lives to stay healthy. As I was reading through the list it occurred to me that these six doctors are particularly applicable to our mental health. They are:
· Fresh air and sunshine
· A good diet
· A Purpose in life
Looking down this list it’s easy to nod wisely and then move on, but it’s worth taking the time to evaluate all these things and see how our lives measure up.
Every point on this list is far more than can be dealt with in a few sentences and so I will take each of them in a separate blog.
How many of us make a point of getting outside for at least half an hour a day? It used to be called “taking one’s constitutional:” a short walk after breakfast, after lunch, or even after dinner; a part of one’s daily routine. It meant getting some exercise and fresh air at the same time. Fresh air is a somewhat sweeping statement, of course. If you live in the city then it’s in short supply, but getting outside is still important. I confess that I am very bad at this and often stay inside all day. I’m thinking, however, of making a discipline of doing just half an hour’s gardening every day, which will result in a tidier garden as well as giving me some fresh air. Gardening is supposed to be particularly good for mental health, of course. Most people find being in nature immensely helpful for their mood. There is something comforting and inspiring about a tree, especially a big tree.
As well as just being in the fresh air, breathing deeply, to get that air down into our lungs makes us feel more alive – unless, that is, we get a lungful of traffic fumes and start to cough!
Getting outside for just half an hour each day means we sleep better and our mood lifts, no matter what the weather, because we can’t always have sunshine, especially if we live in a temperate climate as in UK, and especially in a grey November. In northern parts even daylight is in short supply. If we can get sunshine, however, it is an instant mood lifter. Some people report good effects from using a SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lamp which mimics sunlight. Again, just using the lamp for half an hour a day seems to make a noticeable difference. If the sun is shining, then even sitting by a window brings benefits; lifts our spirits and can aid sleep, number 4 on the list.
So, review how much time you spend outside and see if there is a way you could ensure you have at least a few minutes in the fresh air each day. I’ll report on how my gardening goes. If you have any hints and tips, please let us know in the comments.