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ARIANE BURGESS: in these challenging times when many of us feel powerless and depressed

By Scott Maclennan

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Spending time in woodlands alleviates conditions such as anxiety and depression.
Spending time in woodlands alleviates conditions such as anxiety and depression.

This time of year, with fewer daylight hours and a greater inclination to stay indoors, our mental health can decline.

Mental well-being is as crucial as physical health and has seen a cultural shift in attention over the years. People recognise the necessity of caring for their mental health, integrating activities for mental fitness into their routines.

Balancing work and personal life, taking walks, enjoying nature, reading, or engaging in hobbies all contribute to mental well-being. It's essential to discern constructive activities from those leading to negative spirals. A mindful approach to how you use your time and energy can influence your mood and outlook.

The connection between mental and physical well-being is undeniable. Diet and exercise profoundly impact our quality of life, affecting mood, energy, and resilience.

Resilience is essential in these challenging times when many of us feel powerless and depressed in the face of the climate and nature emergencies. Eco-anxiety, the distress caused by these emergencies, is increasingly recognised.

How can we cope with these feelings and still take action for positive change?

Recently, I spoke with mental health and addictions expert Chris Johnstone, who has a lot of experience in working with people suffering from addiction and mental health challenges, as well as supporting people who face eco-anxiety. He pointed out, no matter the cause of distress, the importance of taking a journey approach to change. To do that he suggested a simple practice he calls ACT– acceptance and commitment therapy.

Using ACT, we start that journey by accepting our current state but also defining the best outcome we could hope for. Then, he suggested committing to one thing we can do a week or day that helps us to gain a sense of agency and move toward our hope for outcome.

That first step will be different for each of us. For some it might be drinking a glass of water a day or taking some deeper breaths. For others it might be joining a local group working on nature restoration or reducing our carbon footprint by using public transport or buying local products. Whatever the step, they can help us feel more empowered and hopeful and improve our mental fitness.

My full conversation with Chris is available on my podcast Regenerative Scotland on Spotify and SoundCloud.

Taking care of our mental health is not something we should postpone or neglect. It is something we should prioritise and celebrate. By doing so, we can enhance our well-being and contribute to a better world for ourselves and others.

If you are living with ongoing and deeper long-term mental health issues it is important to get help and support from a local organisation like Mikeysline you can reach them at 07786 207755 or drop-in at 19 Academy Street, Inverness IV1 1JN, or national organisations like Scottish Action for Mental Health (SAMH) their helpline is 1-800-662-4357 or Change Mental Health who work across Highland, you can reach their Advice and Support Service on 0808 8010 515 or advice@changemh.org Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm.

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