May is Mental Health Month, so Take Five for Green Exercise
If you want to shake off a bad mood, take a five-minute stroll in your own backyard and get some “green exercise,” a new buzz term for “communing with nature.”
A study in the American Chemical Society’s journal Environmental Science & Technology reports that doing just a short period of physical activity in a nature environment can help optimize good mental health. The greatest health advantages are noticeable in the young and those with mental disorders. (Read full story)
Perhaps, as the study suggests, short-term health improvements from a daily dose of green exercise can lead to long-term health benefits in improving overall mental health.
According to National Health Institute statistics, an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans age 18 and older – one in four adults – suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. About six percent, or one in 17 adults, suffer from serious mental illness. And, major depressive disorder – depression – is a leading cause of disability among people ages 15-44. Depression affects 15.8 million American adults or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population, and is more prevalent in women.
The Mental Health Association lists several causes for clinical depression, which often occurs along with other SSA-qualifying disabling conditions such as heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. In 2008, 21.7 percent of Social Security’s disability beneficiaries were awarded benefits based on a mental disorder, an 8.5 percent increase from 2007.
The Mental Health Association lists the following symptoms of clinical depression on its Web site:
- Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
- Sleeping too much or too little, middle of the night or early morning waking
- Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain
- Loss of pleasure and interest in activities once enjoyed, including sex
- Restlessness, irritability
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment (such as chronic pain or digestive disorders)
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Taking charge of one’s own mental health can help prevent things from going too far. So says the Mental Health Association through its yearly observance of Mental Health Month. This year’s national campaign to Live Life Well℠ provides tools and resources to help people become more proactive about balancing life’s stress-related challenges that could lead to severe mental illness, among other causes.
Mental Health America is a leading non-profit national organization dedicated to promoting mental wellness. May, the month of abundant spring green, has traditionally been designated as Mental Health Month since 1949.
After you take five for green exercise, browse through the Mental Health America Web site to learn more about the Live Life Well℠ observance of Mental Health Month and how to take action on issues related to mental disorders.