Practicing mental health is not just for those who are ill–everyone should take care of themselves, physically and mentally. As such, Mental Health America has designed a daily challenge to celebrate/recognize Mental Health Awareness Month. I am reposting the challenge from their website, but feel free to click on the link (http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/4mind4body-challenge) to see what others are doing for the challenge and to check out the other resources they have available.

#MentalHealthAwarenessMonth #MentalHealth #MentalWellness

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Join Mental Health America as we challenge ourselves each day this May to make small changes – both physically and mentally – to create gains for our overall health and well being. Each day of the week will have a theme for the type of activity we’ll be asking you to do, so get ready for #MindfulMonday, #TastyTuesday, #WorkplaceWednesday, #ThoughtfulThursday, #FitnessFriday, #StressFreeSaturday, and #SleepWellSunday – but feel free to do the challenges in whatever order suits you best.

Day 1

You’ve probably heard the sayings, “You are what you eat,” or, “Garbage in, garbage out.” So our first #TastyTuesday challenge will be to look at the types of foods we are used to eating.

Certain foods provide the nutrition your brain and body need to function at their best. Diets that incorporate omega 3 fatty acids, b vitamins, folic acid, vitamin D, prebiotics and probiotics help improve mood, reduce inflammation, and reduce signs of depression; while diets high in processed, sugary, and fatty foods do the opposite.

Check out our Mental Health Grocery List below and post with #4mind4body to let us know what from this list you already have in your kitchen.

Download the Mental Health Grocery List as a printable PDF.

Learn more about how diet and nutrition affect the mind and body here.

Day 2

Wednesdays are about wellness in the workplace #WorkplaceWednesday.

Nowadays so many jobs (although not all of them) involve sitting at a computer, behind a desk—which can make it hard to establish relationships with co-workers, and even harder to incorporate physical activity into your day.

Give your eyes (and your back, and your whole body for that matter) a break from the screen. Today we want you to take a walk on your break. If you need some peace and quiet, take a stroll by yourself. If you feel like company, ask a co-worker to join you.

Track how far you’ve walked with a step tracking app on your phone, wearable device like a Fitbit, or by tracing your route herePost with #4mind4body to let us know how many steps you took or how far you went.

Day 3

It’s #ThoughtfulThursday.

Research indicates that those who consistently help other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer.

Today we’re challenging you to do at least one random act of kindness – something to put a smile on someone else’s face. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Pay the toll for the person behind you on your commute
  • Hold the door open for someone. This may be especially helpful for someone who is mobility impaired, has their hands full or is with small children
  • Call an old friend or family member that you haven’t talked to in a while
  • Help an elderly friend or neighbor run errands or do housework
  • Buy a cup of coffee for someone
  • Clean up leaves or garbage on your street

Post with #4mind4body to let us know what your random act of kindness was.

Day 4

Yoga can improve mental health in general and may help relieve symptoms of mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.

Aside from its benefits for your mental health, it’s a great way to stretch and strengthen your muscles.

We’ve partnered with Annie Shiel, yoga instructor and co-founder of True U —an organization that empowers teens through yoga, true talk, and mindfulness—to show you two short yoga routines.

As long as you’re healthy enough to do exercise, give one of these videos a try. Show us how you did on #FitnessFriday: post a post-yoga selfie with #4mind4body and let us know how it made you feel. Namaste!

Learn more about how exercise benefits mind and body.

For more from Annie, you can find her on Facebook or Instagram @annieshiel. To learn about True U, check them out on Facebook or Instagram/Twitter @trueuofficial.

PS – Happy Star Wars Day. Here are some words of wisdom about dealing with mental health problems from the late Carrie Fisher. May the Fourth be with you.

Day 5

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Every Saturday this May our challenges will focus on how to be stress-free (or at least how to reduce stress). This #StressFreeSaturday we’re looking at music as a stress reliever.

Musician Brandon Fox uses music as a stress reliever and his song writing has helped him recover from a substance use disorder. Hear what he has to say in the video below, and check out his album, “Remedy,” on ITunes or Google Play (Brandon suggests the ‘Long Time Coming’ & ‘Bring Me Down’ tracks for de-stressing). 100% of album proceeds benefit the work of Mental Health America.

We want to know what your favorite de-stressing songs are. Post a link to your favorite song or music video with #4mind4body. See what music other people use for de-stressing at mentalhealthamerica.net/4mind4body.

Here is a Spotify playlist of MHA staff’s favorite songs for de-stressing.


Day 6

It’s #SleepWellSunday.

A good night’s sleep can often be the first thing we sacrifice to make sure all of our daily demands are taken care of, but sleep is about so much more than just shutting your eyes. When we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies don’t have time to repair organs and flush toxins from our brains, which can increase the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and symptoms of mental health disorders.

In fact, people with mental health disorders experience sleep problems at a much higher rate than those without mental health disorders.

Depending on your age, the amount of sleep you need varies.

After tracking our sleep patterns for the last few days, we figured that MHA staff get an average of 7 hours and 32 minutes of sleep per night (but we also wake up a handful of times each night).

Today’s challenge is all about tracking your sleep to figure out if you are getting enough. Starting tonight we want you to track how much sleep you’re getting each night. Post tomorrow with how much sleep you got and whether or not you’re feeling well-rested in the morning (don’t forget to use #4Mind4Body).

Ways to Track Your Sleep:

  • The old-fashioned way: Look at the clock before you fall asleep and make a note (mentally or on paper) of when it was, then when you wake up, do the math and figure out how many hours of sleep you got.
  • The wearable way: Wearable devices can help you track not only how many hours of sleep you are getting, but how much time you spend in different sleep stages based on your heart rate. Many models of Fitbit have the ability to track sleep, and the Apple Watch can track sleep when you use it with apps like Sleep Tracker (get it here for $1.99). Other lesser known wearable devices like the Jawbone Up, Garmin VivoSmart HR+, Basis Peak, Misfit Shine 2, Leaf Urban (which can be worn as a bracelet or on a necklace) and the Oura Ring (it’s a ring for your finger) also have sleep tracking functions.
  • The smart phone way: Staring at your phone for long period of time before bed can mess up your sleep, but you don’t even have to look at your phone for it to be a useful tool for tracking your sleep. Free apps like SleepBot, Sleep Better sleep cycle alarm clock, Sleep Cycle alarm clock, and Sleep Time are able to track sleep patterns based on the movements and sounds you make while you are snoozing when placed either on a table next to your bed or on your bed beside your pillow.

Get more information about how sleep affects the mind and body.

Day 7

Mondays this May will be focused on mindfulness #MindfulMonday. But what exactly is mindfulness, and how does one practice being mindful?

We’ll answer these questions and guide you through a short mindfulness exercise in a podcast created especially for MHA by Ananda Leeke – artist, author, Reiki master practitioner, professional speaker, and mindfulness and yoga teacher.

Tell us – is this your first time doing a mindfulness exercise, and what does mindfulness mean to you? Be sure to post with #4mind4body.

For more short mindfulness and meditation exercises, check out Ananda’s  #ThrivingMindfully podcast series on SoundCloud.

Stay Tuned! Week 2 will be posted on May 4th.

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