Published July 20, 2023

Spend time in nature during Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

July is Minority Mental Health Awareness Month and the perfect time to check-in with yourself and loved ones, as well as learn about all the ways you can support your mental wellbeing outdoors.

One in five American adults live with mental illness, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of those who were screened by Mental Health America, BIPOC people were most likely to screen positive or at-risk for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, psychosis and alcohol/substance abuse disorders.

People from racial and ethnic minority groups can face greater difficulty getting support for mental health, according to the CDC. From the cost of care to the stigma associated with mental health challenges, there are many reasons people may avoid seeking professional help. Additionally, BIPOC individuals can experience or witness racial discrimination or face violence, both of which can cause stress and trauma.

While there is no replacement for addressing mental health concerns with a professional, there are some easy ways to support your journey to better physical and mental wellness by simply spending time outdoors.

In fact, research shows that spending just 20 minutes a day immersed in nature significantly lowers stress hormone levels, lowers depression and anxiety, enhances mood, and more.

NEED HELP RIGHT NOW? While nature is a valuable tool to alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression, it is not a replacement for speaking with a mental health professional. If you need to talk, call:

  • The Miami Valley Warmline: 937-528-7777
  • The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Dial 988

MetroParks Mindfulness Walks: Five Rivers MetroParks offers four short, easy Mindfulness Walks where visitors can use mindfulness prompts along the trails using MetroParks’ mobile app on their smart phones. These mindfulness activities — developed with input from Dayton Children’s and Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services — are designed to help people learn how reduce stress and improve their mental health outdoors. Find MetroParks Mindfulness Walks in EastwoodHuffmanSunrise and Possum Creek MetroParks. Prompts are also available in Spanish online at metroparks.org/mindful. Visit metroparks.org/mobile to download the mobile app.

On Our Sleeves Walks: Children don’t always wear their emotions on their sleeves, which is why Dayton Children’s and MetroParks have teamed up to create special On Our Sleeves walks designed to prompt parents to explore feelings with their children in nature.

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You can find signs with prompts during July at:

Learn more about Dayton Children’s On Our Sleeves by visiting www.childrensdayton.org/onoursleeves.

Talk a walk, run or bike: Mental and physical health are closely related. Moving your body has many benefits and exercising outdoors provides benefits traditional indoor workouts do not. Exercising releases endorphins, which help boost your mood. Additionally, spending time outdoors helps you stock up on Vitamin D – the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D is critical for your body and mind to function well, and a lack of it contributes to seasonal affective disorder.

Forest bathing: A concept started in Japan called “shinrin-yoku,” forest bathing is simply spending a peaceful moment in nature with your senses engaged. Spending mindful time in nature is thought to boost both physical and mental wellbeing.

For those who need a little guidance, focus on your feet, hands, ears, eyes and nose for two minutes each. Note what you’re experiencing during these sensory moments, be present and relax during your time immersed in greenspaces.

Tap into your blue mind: “Blue mind” refers to the mildly meditative state people fall into when near, in, on or under water, according to marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols. Research has proven that spending time near the water helps elevate happiness.

MetroParks is home to expansive lakes, ponds, streams and rivers, all of which can help provide a calming, blue mind effect. Here are just a few places to visit in MetroParks:

  • Eastwood MetroPark: Sit by the lagoon or watch the Mad River Run’s water swirl around.
  • Possum Creek MetroPark: Walk the short trail around Argonne Lake then sit and relax by the water and watch it ripple in the wind.
  • Aullwood Gardens MetroPark: Sit along the banks of the Stillwater River to watch the calm movement of the water.

Note: Swimming is not permitted in any of your MetroParks. Always wear a lifejacket when near, in or on water.

Find more ways to benefit your mind and body by visiting the outdoors at metroparks.org/blog.

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