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Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

Two people cleaning living room

 

Ahhh, spring has sprung, well at least it HAD sprung for a few weeks here in Ohio and hopefully it will return soon! With spring’s arrival, many people take advantage of the warmer temperatures and longer days to begin sprucing up their houses and yards. While I love getting out in my yard and garden as soon as possible to start preparing for the blossoms and blooms of spring and summer, I am not nearly as excited about tending to my house. Luckily, my husband is more likely to help me with the inside than the outside and, working together makes spring cleaning easier than tackling it alone.

Spring cleaning has taken on an entirely new meaning for us this year. My husband and I just moved out of our 4 bedroom, 3 bath 2,700 sq. ft. home of 8 years and into my son’s 1 bedroom, 1 bath 625 sq. ft. apartment this past weekend. Our house was in contract 2 days after we listed, needless to say, we were in a bit of a scramble to find a place to live for a couple months. Thankfully, my son graciously offered to let us stay in his apartment until our house is completed in July and he is staying with his grandparents. While I am incredibly grateful to have a place to stay, my husband and I are quickly learning what a luxury it was to have the extra space.

We have been preparing for this move, or so we thought, for several months. We had already moved some of our belongings into a storage unit to prepare for selling our house. And while my children are all grown and mostly out of the house, we still housed a ton of their “stuff.” As we were sorting through stuff, it became clear that we have TOO MUCH! But as the deadline to be out of our house approached, we realized we did not have time to sort all of the stuff right now, so we just focused on getting everything packed up and moved. Now our 32 x 40 pole barn and the large storage unit are pretty much filled, and we are left with the task of sorting and reducing over the next couple months.

As stressful as it has been, it is good to see what we have so we can more effectively determine what we REALLY want and/or need to move into our forever home. Mental Health America’s national campaign for May, which is Mental Health Awareness Month, is “Look Around, Look Within” emphasizing how our surroundings impact our mental health. Though at times it can be stressful, spring cleaning can have mental health benefits. Some of these include improved mood, increased productivity, decreased stress, and increased creativity. In this article Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant, reminds us “Spring cleaning your mind is similar in practice to spring cleaning your house: de-cluttering the things that are holding you back, reinventing or refining your values, and then maintaining that sense of mental cleanliness and self-awareness moving forward.”

Other areas you may want to consider spring cleaning include: finances, digital accounts, medicine, make up, and food storage areas. As my husband and I adjust to our new accommodations, I will try to focus on the positives and remember this is short-term. And when one or both of us is frustrated with the situation or each other, you may just find me in the yard communing with nature for my health AND his!

Written by: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Ryan Kline, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County, kline.375@osu.edu

Sources:

Can spring cleaning make you happier? Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://www.wakehealth.edu/stories/can-spring-cleaning-make-you-happier

Mental health Month 2023 “Look around, look within.” (n.d.). Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://mhanational.org/sites/default/files/MHM/Toolkit-2023/MHM-2023-Sample-Proclamation.pdf

Robbins, J., Williams, T., & George, Z. S. (n.d.). Ecopsychology: How immersion in nature benefits your health. Yale E360. Retrieved May 4, 2023, from https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health?nav=F4tE-518336

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gardening gloves

Gardening can be more than just a hobby, it can have lasting benefits for your physical health, mental health, and can help fight against some chronic diseases and cancers. In a randomized, controlled study of community gardeners, those who gardened increased their physical activity by forty-two minutes per week and ate an average of 1.4 grams more fiber daily than those who did not. They also reported lower levels of stress and anxiety. A few of the ways gardening can benefit your health include:

Increased Exercise. The CDC categorizes gardening as exercise. Gardening can exercise all the body’s major muscle groups. Physical activity during gardening such as digging, hauling, watering and harvesting can improve your physical strength, heart health, weight, sleep, and immune system. Regular exercise can also improve your brain health. Exercise can improve memory and thinking skills by reducing insulin resistance, reducing inflammation, and stimulating the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the growth and health of brain cells.

Improved mental health. Gardening can improve your mental health by encouraging feelings of well-being, calm, empowerment, and connection. Working in school, community, and family gardens can help people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds expand and deepen their connections with each other. Working in a garden can help you take charge and feel empowered to meet your own needs for exercise, healthy food, and beautiful surroundings. Having a routine of regularly tending a garden can provide structure to your day and is linked to improved mental health. 

Increased Vitamin D production. A scientific review of the risks and benefits of sun exposure found that controlled exposure to the sun increases Vitamin D production in the body while limiting the risks of over exposure. Vitamin D can help lower the risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, bladder cancer, prostate cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, if your vitamin D levels are low, you can have a greater risk of developing psoriasis flares, metabolic syndrome (a prediabetes condition), type II diabetes, and dementia.

Improved Diet. In the randomized, controlled study of community gardeners, in addition to increasing their daily fiber intake, the gardeners also increased their daily fruit and vegetable consumption. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults consume 2 ½ cups each of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients that promote health and prevent disease, including dietary fiber. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can help encourage you to eat more produce as you harvest your efforts from gardening. 

Gardening can provide many health benefits for both the body and the mind. Increased exercise and Vitamin D production, improved diet and fiber intake, and feelings of calm, empowerment, and connection all contribute to improved mental health, physical health, and an overall sense of well-being.  So, consider adding gardening to your list of hobbies today!    

Written by Julie Weinberg, Dietetic Intern and Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Reviewed by Holly Bandy, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Stark County

Sources:

Litt, J.S., Alaimo, K., Harrall, K.K., Hamman, R.F., Hebert, J.R., Hurley, T.G., Leiferman, J., Li, K., Villalobos, A., Coringrato, E., Courtney, J.B., Payton, M. & Glueck, D.H. (2023). Effects of a community gardening intervention on diet, physical activity, and anthropometry outcomes in the USA (CAPs): An observer-blind, randomized controlled trial. The Lancet Planetary Health; 7(1): E23-E32. doi: 10.1016/S2542-5196(22)00303-5. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanplh/article/PIIS2542-5196(22)00303-5/fulltext

Litt, J.S., Alaimo, K., Buchenau, M., Villalobos, A., Glueck, D.H., Crume, T., Fahnestock, L., Hamman, R.F., Hebert, J.R., Hurley, T.G., Leiferman, J. & Li, K (2018). Rationale and design for the community activation for prevention study (CAPs): A randomized controlled trial of community gardening. Contemporary Clinical Trials; 68: 72-78. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2018.03.005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5963280/

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My husband, who works in IT, has a shirt that says, “Hope is Not a Strategy.” While this may be true in his line of work and many others, I dare say hope IS at least a partial strategy in many areas of life. For mental and behavioral health professionals hope is most definitely a widely-used strategy! When someone is struggling with a mental health challenge or substance use issue, professionals remind them there IS HOPE of recovery, as it can be difficult for folks to remember people CAN and DO recover.

This time of year can be more difficult for some people, especially those who struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or it’s milder form Winter Depression. Most people develop symptoms in late fall or early winter that persist until late Spring or Summer. Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling listless, sad, or down most of the day, nearly every day
  • Losing interest in activities you enjoyed
  • Having low energy and feeling sluggish
  • Sleeping too much
  • Experiencing carbohydrate cravings, overeating and weight gain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling hopeless, worthless, or guilty
  • Having thoughts of not wanting to live

Spring and Summer SAD (SAD can occur ANY time of year) symptoms include:

  • Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Increased irritability

Even those who don’t have these symptoms may struggle at times, and HOPE can be a strategy to help. You can help folks who may be struggling to remember there is HOPE! There are people (mental health professionals) who can and want to help. There are things people can do for themselves to help manage and/or alleviate symptoms. There are people who love and care about them and seeking help is in NO WAY a sign of weakness.

Some self-care tips to maintain good mental health include:

  • Get regular exercise.
  • Eat healthy, regular meals and stay hydrated.
  • Make sleep a priority.
  • Try a relaxing activity.
  • Set goals and priorities.
  • Practice gratitude.
  • Focus on positivity.
  • Stay connected to friends and family.

It took me a long time to realize that I experience SAD because my symptoms start in late summer/early fall. When everyone else is giddy with the changing season, I am filled with dread. I have written about it several times to let others know that SAD does not just occur now. My symptoms actually start to improve as many others start to experience them. One key point about SAD is the re-occurrence of symptoms and the easing of them around the same time each year. Once I FINALLY realized why I unlike the rest of the planet, do not particularly care for fall, I was able to own it and be more proactive in helping myself and others to understand and cope better.

If you or someone you know or love has thoughts of suicide, please call the suicide and crisis hotline at 988 to be connected immediately to a mental health professional. There is HOPE!

References:

Aarth. (2020, April 22). 31 ways to work on your wellness. AARTH. Retrieved January 26, 2023, from https://www.aarth.org/post/31-ways-to-work-on-your-wellness

Deal better with Hard Times. Mental Health America. (n.d.). Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://mhanational.org/deal-better-hard-times

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, December 14). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 24, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Caring for your mental health. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved January 25, 2023, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health

Author: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Ryan Kline, Family and Consumer Sciences and 4-H Youth Development Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Ross County

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Dark snowy night with trees covered in snow
Photo by u0422u0430u0442u044cu044fu043du0430 u0427u0435u0440u043du044bu0448u043eu0432u0430ud83cudf52 on Pexels.com

One of my favorite things about the winter are the snowy days and nights. I’ll put on my cross-country skis and go out for a few hours, not see a car in sight, and appreciate the silence. I feel sometimes like I’m in the wilderness during a snowstorm, and there is something very relaxing about it. The ephemeral darkness and silence of a snowstorm should be taken advantage of, as these qualities have health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked. Too much noise and light can be detrimental to our health and well-being.

Noise pollution is common if you live in the cities or suburbs, or next to a busy road if you live in a rural area. Noise comes from traffic, sirens, industry, construction work, and can come from our own homes including our TVs, phones, radios, appliances, etc. What are some of the health consequences of being exposed to too much noise? Research suggests that too much noise can promote hearing loss, tinnitus, and hypersensitivity to sound. It can also cause or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, sleep disturbances, stress, mental health and cognition problems, including memory impairment and attention deficits, childhood learning delays, and low birth weight.

Conversely, there are many health benefits to silence; it lowers your blood pressure, decreases your heart rate, steadies your breathing, reduces muscle tension and increases focus and cognition. Silence can also help us have more profound thoughts, stronger relationships, increased creativity, and improved communication skills.

What can you do? Try to sit in silence and practice mindfulness one minute per day and build up to twice a day once you are comfortable. Some people are really challenged by this, especially if they are used to noise, or being on their phones. Extroverts might have a harder time with this than introverts. Eventually, build up to 15 minutes per day, and you will feel calmer and more relaxed. You could also try going for a walk alone without music, staring out the window and watching birds, or drinking your morning coffee or tea without your phone, TV or other devices.

Author: Dan Remley PhD, MSPH Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition, and Wellness, Ohio State University Extension, remley.4@osu.edu

Reviewer: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60@osu.edu

Sources:

Stephanie Dutchen. Harvard Health. The Effects of Noise on Health. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://hms.harvard.edu/magazine/viral-world/effects-noise-health

Cleveland Clinic. Health Essentials. An Ode to Silence: Why you Need Silence in Your Life. Accessed on 12/12/22 at https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-you-need-more-silence-in-your-life/

Patrice Powers-Barker. An introduction to Mindfulness. Access on 12/12/22 at ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

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Intentional Connections

Connecting with friends and family is essential for good health. We were made to connect with one another. In fact, we thrive on it, both mentally and physically. Researchers are exploring how social support and good relationships are converted into neurochemical signals that can boost one’s immune system. The quality of our social support and interpersonal connections can affect things like mood, motivation, coping skills, self-esteem and general well-being.

many hands together, friendship
hands, frienship

Recently I participated in a program where we learned to make a Vision Board and set goals for our own personal vision. The area I focused on was ‘heart.’ I wanted to be more intentional about connecting with family and friends. I do not want to look back later and have regrets about missed opportunities to connect with others, especially my kids who will soon both be grown and flown, leaving an empty nest. Having just sent one child to college this fall, and the other child to follow in two years, I’m keenly aware of how quickly the years roll by.

For each person on my goal list, I tried to think of specific ways we could connect. For my husband I made a goal to plan a monthly date. This could be something as simple as a walk in the woods, or a breakfast out. For my teenage son, I simply need to be available whenever he wants to talk or share about his day and take an interest in his thoughts. For my daughter who is now in college, I try to support her when she calls or needs help and send an occasional text of a cute picture or positive affirmation.

So how do we become more intentional about connecting? September 26, 2022 just happens to be National Family Day to remind us to reconnect and cherish family and loved ones. Here are a few tips to consider:

Go on an outing

Whether it is a day in the park, a picnic, or a movie, an outing with your family can provide an opportunity to reconnect and enjoy some quality time.

Eat together

Family meals are a wonderful way to learn about one another’s day and reconnect daily. There are so many benefits to eating together as a family.

Plan a game night

Games bring families together for fun. When families have fun together, lasting memories are created. Be intentional about spending time together and make family game night a regular part of the schedule.

Use technology to connect

Modern technology makes it easy to connect. This article on unexpected connections provides helpful tips on how to creatively connect with loved ones both near and far.

When we are intentional in connecting with loved ones, beautiful and meaningful moments await. Be intentional. Connect often.

Writer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County, carter.413@osu.edu

Reviewer: Misty Harmon, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Sources:

Create Your Own Vision Board: Bring your goals to life with a vision board! National 4-H Council, All State Foundation and Ohio State University Extension. https://4-h.org/about/4-h-at-home/emotional-wellness/digital-vision-board/

Perissinotto CM, Stijacic Cenzer I, Covinsky KE. Loneliness in Older Persons: A Predictor of Functional Decline and Death. Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(14):1078–1084. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.1993

Uchino, B. N., & Way, B. M. (2017). Integrative pathways linking close family ties to health: A neurochemical perspective. American Psychologist, 72(6), 590–600. https://doi.org/10.1037/amp0000049

Live Healthy Live Well Blog from Ohio State University Extension, various posts:

  • College Send-Off: Are You Ready? By Shannon Carter
  • Empty Nest: Now What? by Misty Harmon
  • Take a Dine-In Day with Your Family by Lisa Barlage
  • The Case for Family Game Night by Shannon Carter
  • Unexpected Connections by Beth Stefura
  • Why We Need Connection by Jami Dellifield

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The grieving is palpable and genuine, yet many never met the Queen. How is this outpouring of grief so real? Why are so many people sad when they aren’t personally familiar with her?

2 white peace lily flowers with green stems
Peace Lily flowers

The passing of a figurehead, celebrity, or Her Majesty the Queen can stir up feelings of sadness and grief, not because you are going to personally miss the warm hug you received every morning from them, the phone call received on your birthday, or family game nights… but maybe they represented something deeper within yourself. A passage of time, an ideology, an innocence, or maybe they were that something that was consistent in your ever-changing world.

At first, you may not understand why the death of this person has brought up feelings of sadness and grief, and you don’t always have to fully unpack that baggage, but rather acknowledge the emotions, allowing yourself to feel whatever feelings that you need in that moment. It is okay to grieve the loss of someone you didn’t know personally, as it may not be the actual person you are grieving, but what that person symbolized for you.

Your grief may be your outward expression of your ability to empathize with the parents, siblings, spouses, family, and friends of the one that passed, and is a wonderful act of compassion and concern for the welfare of others.  

Grief looks different for everyone because it is a personal process that takes time, and we each address it in a variety of ways.  Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross gave us five stages of grief to better help us understand the process.

  1. Denial – Refusal to believe the loss is real
  2. Anger – Can range from frustration to furry
  3. Bargaining – Attempt to strike a deal to change things
  4. Depression – Sadness when we realize our life is forever changed
  5. Acceptance – We understand our loss has happened and we can’t change it
Picture of the Grief Cycle. Flowing chart of what we expect the grief cycle to be, like a gentle hill, but the reality is that the cycle is all over, like a child's scribble.

Grief is a non-linear process meaning that we can process through the stages several times and in any order. However, if the grief process becomes overwhelming, too difficult, or persistent, reach out to a mental health professional as you do not have to deal with grief alone.

Written by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Reviewed by Susan Zies Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Wood County, zies.1@osu.edu

References:

The Cleveland Clinic. (2022, March 21). The 5 Stages of grief after a loss. Retrieved from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/5-stages-of-grief/

Mayo Clinic, (2016, October 19). What is grief? Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/patient-visitor-guide/support-groups/what-is-grief

Parincu, Z. (N.D.). Sadness: Definition, Causes, & Related Emotions. Berkely Well-being Institute. Retrieved from https://www.berkeleywellbeing.com/sadness.html

Suttie, J. (2019). Why the world needs an empathy revolution. Greater Good Magazine, Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_the_world_needs_an_empathy_revolution

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The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been in existence since 2005, but it has always been 1-800-273-8255. While it has been great to have a number for people to call in a suicide crisis situation, a new government initiative is making it easier for people to get help. All a person has to do is call or text 988 to reach someone when they are in a state of emotional distress, having thoughts of suicide or harming others, or having substance abuse concerns.

One of the greatest advantages to this new number, besides making it easier for a person to remember, is that prior to making the shift, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline was traditionally focused on supporting someone experiencing a suicidal crisis situation. Now, there is support for a person that just needs to talk through their anxiety, depression, or substance use distress.

Just as before, when a person calls the lifeline they will be linked to a trained professional such as a counselor, therapist, or social worker for support. These counselors are trained to reduce the stress of the challenge, provide emotional support, and link to local services if needed after the call is over. Research has shown that most calls to the lifeline can be managed or resolved over the phone; however, there are always exceptions.

Help us break down the stigma of receiving support by promoting 988! There is no shame in seeking out support. If you notice any of the below emotional, behavioral, or physical changes in someone, they may benefit from talking with a mental health professional. Keep in mind that most of these are compounded on top of each other and last for several weeks.

  • Fatigue
  • Increased irritability
  • Depression lasting more than 2 weeks
  • Social isolation
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Difficulty following through with tasks at work or school

Remember your mental health is just as important as your physical health. It will take all of us to embrace the change to 988, but thank goodness it is easy to remember!

Written by: Bridget Britton, Behavioral Health Field Specialist, OSU Extension britton.191@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022). Mental Health. https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/index.htm

Center for Public Health Practice, The Ohio State University College of Public Health. Ohio Mental Health Resource Guides. https://u.osu.edu/cphp/ohio-mental-health-resource-guides/

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration. 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/988

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October is emotional wellness month!  What exactly is emotional wellness?  Emotional wellness encompasses the feeling of happiness and success. It is learning how to deal with the ups and down of life, coping with challenges and having control of your life and a sense of purpose.  When you are emotionally well you function more effectively in your workplace, community, and in relationships. 

Mental Health America (MHA) reports that over 40 million Americans suffer from at least one mental health problem.  Prolonged untreated mental health problems may lead to more severe psychological and physical health conditions such as: insomnia, hypertension, headaches, shortness of breath, impulsivity, and muscle aches.  Mindfulness, along with a healthy lifestyle, and stress management can help you deal with mental health problems.  Treatment can include medication along with healthy habits, yoga, meditation, and counseling.

Make your life better by establishing healthy habits. To encourage holistic health, focus on healthy habits which make you feel good!

  • Mindfulness:  Be mindful, focus on the specific moment you are in.
  • Journaling:  Write down your joys.
  • Meditate/Yoga
  • Laugh!  Laughing releases, the happy juice — endorphins. With endorphins surging through our bloodstream, we’re more apt to feel happy and relaxed. With each laugh, therefore, we’re relieving stress, reducing anxiety, and increasing our stores of personal energy.
  • Say “NO” without guilt.  Learning to set boundaries and spending time for yourself is imperative for self-care.
  • Read Books
  • Seek therapy
  • Communicate with others your feelings and needs.
  • Focus on the good.

American Psychological Association, (2018) Stress Effects on the Body. https://www.apa.org/topics/stress/body

Miller, K. (2020). 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science.  Positive Psychology. https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-gratitude/

Powers-Barker, P., (2016).  Introduction to Mindfulness.  Ohioline: Ohio State University Extension. https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hyg-5243

Written by:  Kellie Lemly M.Ed., Family Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension, Champaign County, lemly.2@osu.edu

Reviewer: Roseanne Scammahorn, Ph.D. Family Consumer Science Educator, OSU Extension, Darke County, scammahron.5@osu.edu

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Every time I go to the store lately I see things declaring, “Happy Fall Y’all!” or some variation. While many people love all things fall, I am not a fan. Yes, you read that correctly, I am not a fan of fall. First, the changing colors on the trees means the leaves are dying in preparation for the long, cold, dark months ahead. The marked shortening of the days means that soon it will be dark when I leave for work and dark again shortly after I get home. “Sweatshirt weather” means it’s too cold to swim or stand up paddle board, two things I enjoy. While we still have time to take our boat out, we will have to bundle up while doing so. Then there’s the dreary, rainy, blah days that are characteristic of fall in Ohio. So, while many of you are basking in the season, some of us are struggling.

Woman with hat pulled down over her face. Face has a grimace.

For many years I did not realize why I lack the excitement and anticipation of fall like so many people I know. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized I have the winter blues, a milder form of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that begins and ends about the same time each year. As the name implies and as many people understand it, winter blues and SAD often occur in winter, not late summer/early fall like my symptoms. After teaching about mental health, I finally realized that my disdain for fall actually has a cause. While winter blues and SAD typically DO occur later, they can actually occur ANY time of the year, and in fact, some people experience symptoms of SAD during the summer, sometimes referred to summer blues or summer depression. Since I do not have a background in mental health, I was surprised to learn this. Besides, how could ANYONE not LOVE summer and ALL that it offers? All joking aside, regardless of when someone experiences symptoms, there are things you can do to help.

As I looked back over my blog articles from the past, it appears I am inspired to write about this topic each year around this time. I think revisiting information about winter blues and SAD helps me to be more proactive in doing things to reduce my symptoms. The American Psychological Association provides these tips:

Person walking on a path through the woods with an umbrella.
  1. Experience as much daylight as possible.
  2. Eat healthily.
  3. Spend time with your friends and family.
  4. Stay active.
  5. Seek professional help.

I find exercising regularly, ideally outside, in addition to eating healthy, getting the appropriate amount of sleep, and spending time with my family to be helpful in warding off symptoms. It usually takes me a bit to get into a groove, especially as the days get shorter and shorter. Once I am able to get into a routine, I find I can actually enjoy some of the characteristic fall activities, though summer will forever be my favorite season.

Some of the risk factors for SAD include:

  1. Being female. Women are four times as likely to develop SAD than men.
  2. Living far from the equator. One percent of Florida residents compared to nine percent of Alaska residents suffer from SAD.
  3. Family history. A family history of any type of depression increases the risk of developing SAD.
  4. Having depression or bipolar disorder. Depression symptoms may worsen with the seasons if you have another condition.
  5. Younger Age. Younger adults have a higher risk than older adults. SAD can occur in children and teens as well.

So, as I remember all the fun summer activities that are no more, I will focus on things I can do to help me make the most of the changing seasons. Just don’t expect to see any fall decorations at my house until mid-October!

As always, if you or someone you love is struggling, don’t hesitate to contact a mental health professional or a primary care physician.

Written by Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewed by Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Seasonal affective disorder. American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.apa.org/topics/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder.

Harmon, M. D. (2019, October 21). Fall: A sad time of year. Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/10/21/fall-a-sad-time-of-year/.

Harmon, M. D. (2020, December 11). What’s so great about fall ya’ll? Live Healthy Live Well. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/10/08/whats-so-great-about-fall-yall/.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2017, October 25). Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20364651.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) | Michigan Medicine. (2020, September 23). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw169553.

Site-Name. (n.d.). Chestnut Health Systems. Get Help Now. Retrieved September 28, 2021, from https://www.chestnut.org/how-we-can-help/mental-health/learn-the-facts-mental-health/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/.

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How are you feeling today? In a world full of 24-hours news that tends to focus on negative events, an ongoing global pandemic, and growing divisiveness, “happy” might not be the first emotion that comes to mind. According to NORC at the University of Chicago, only 14% of American adults said they were very happy in 2020, which is the lowest percentage since the poll has been conducted over the past 50 years.

Closeup of diverse senior adults sitting by the pool enjoying summer together

If you find yourself in the 86% of adults who are not feeling very happy, is there anything you can do about it? The wonderful (and happy) news is that the answer to this question is an enthusiastic “YES!” Positive psychology is the scientific study of what makes life most worth living. Scientists in the field have found proven ways to increase a person’s level of happiness.

Action for Happiness is a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom and their mission is to create more happiness in the world. In a joint endeavor with Vanessa King, they developed the Ten Keys to Happier Living, a framework based on the latest research relating to physical, psychological, and mental wellbeing. The first 5 keys focus on daily life and how we relate and interact with the external world, while the last 5 keys focus on qualities that are internal and shaped by our attitudes. The Ten Keys are:

  1. Giving: Do things for others
  2. Relating: Connect with people
  3. Exercising: Take care of your body
  4. Awareness: Live life mindfully
  5. Trying Out: Keep learning new things
  6. Direction: Have goals to look forward to
  7. Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
  8. Emotions: Focus on what’s good
  9. Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
  10. Meaning: Be part of something bigger

You can remember the ten keys because together, they spell out GREAT DREAM. You can download a free, in-depth guidebook that provides an introduction, an image, a question, a quote, and practical action ideas for each key.

Knowing ten ways to increase your happiness is a great start. Now comes the fun part: trying out these keys for yourself. Commit to trying one of the keys today and make plans to try the others over time. Not only will you have fun and learn new things, but you have the potential of joining that small and fortunate group of people who report being very happy. As the Dalai Lama has said, Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

A final note: Positive psychology recognizes that not everyone feels happy all the time nor does it dismiss real problems that people experience. If you have a difficult time feeling happy, even when you keep trying, reach out to a friend, a professional, and/or a support service, like Ohio CareLine. Also keep in mind that many medications can have mental health side effects. Don’t struggle alone and remember that asking for help is a sign of great strength.

Resources:
To learn more about happiness and find additional educational resources, visit https://go.osu.edu/mental-health-and-well-being-warren-co

References:
Action for Happiness. (n.d.). Great Dream: Ten Keys to Happier Living. https://www.actionforhappiness.org/media/530511/ten_keys_guidebook.pdf

King, V. (2016). 10 Keys to Happier Living. London, United Kingdom: Headline Publishing Group.

NORC (2020). Issue Brief: Historic Shift in Americans’ Happiness Amid Pandemic. NORC at the University of Chicago.
https://www.norc.org/PDFs/COVID%20Response%20Tracking%20Study/Historic%20Shift%20in%20Americans%20Happiness%20Amid%20Pandemic.pdf

Peterson, C. (2008, May 16). What is positive psychology, and what is it not? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-good-life/200805/what-is-positive-psychology-and-what-is-it-not

Stanton, L. (2020, December 10). Serious mental health side effects related to Singulair. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension.
https://livehealthyosu.com/2020/12/10/serious-mental-health-side-effects-related-to-singulair

Stanton, L. (2021, July 13). How happiness protects heart health. Live Healthy Live Well, Ohio State University Extension.
https://livehealthyosu.com/2021/07/13/how-happiness-protects-heart-health

Written by: Laura M. Stanton, MS, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County, stanton.60.osu.edu

Reviewed by: Shari Gallup, MS, Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Licking County, gallup.1@osu.edu

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