About the Series
We hope you had “fun” putting into place some new coping skills last week with our episode on fun activities to improve your mood. If you’re joining us for the first time, Vincent and I are mental health counselors. We work regularly with people who are struggling with depression and anxiety.
Today’s podcast episode is part four of a ten-part series on “101 Activities to Improve Your Mood.” If you missed them, we welcome you to check out the last few weeks episodes on mood and God, slowing down, and fun!
In the upcoming weeks we will offer discussion and information on activities you can do to elevate your mood and lessen anxiety. Next week we will discuss social activities, followed by aesthetics, creating and learning, touch and smell, and helping in the following weeks.
We are urged in Philippians 4:8 by Paul to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.” Paul is preaching a message of unity and steadfastness to the church at Philippi. One thing that depression can do is tear us apart—alienate us; leave us feeling disconnected and lonely.
Animals & Nature
Much like we discussed last week about babies, animals, especially pets, can provide wonderful opportunities to laugh and brighten our spirits. Enjoying scenes from nature also helps us to see outside of ourselves and to feel like a part of something “bigger.” So today, we will look at some activities that you can do to get you amongst God’s great, creative world!
Whatever is Lovely….
3. Pet a dog. In 2011, psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University discovered from their findings in three experiments that pet owners displayed less loneliness and higher self-esteem. In 2012, a study in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that dog owners have hearts that adapt better than those of non-pet owners. In a 2008 study presented at a meeting of the American Stroke Association people who never owned a cat had a 40 % increased risk of death by heart attack over 20 year period. So if you don’t like dogs, then I guess a cat will do just as well.
11. Go to the park and watch the squirrels and the birds. Researchers at the British Trust for Ornithology, the University of Exeter, and the University of Queensland have found that the more the number of birds viewed in an afternoon reduces depression, anxiety, and stress in an individual.
22. Visit a state park. Taking a walk or hike in nature will benefit your mental health. A 2015 study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences stated, “Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.” A 2017 study in Germany corroborates the idea that time in nature is good for our brains.
39. View the stars through a telescope. Or better yet visit a planetarium. Gazing at the stars is a good way to relax your mind and get your thoughts beyond yourself. This may also be a good date if you have anxiety about eating our and a movie.
43. Go see the fall colors in the mountains. Being in nature and reflecting on nature can alleviate host of mental health issues. Forest therapy where you pay someone to guide you through a forest to remedy ailments is actually practiced in a few areas.
More Whatever is Lovely….
46. Play with a cat. Cats can be a safe, calming constant in your life. They provide unconditional, uncomplicated friendship among other benefits.
50. Put up a bird feeder so that you can watch the birds. According to a study in Southern England, bird watching in urban areas can reduce anxiety and stress.
69. Watch a nature show on PBS or the BBC. A study by BBC and the University of California Berkeley has found that watching nature shows causes the viewers to increased happiness and reduced stress. Advanced facial mapping was used to determine a person’s emotional state.
91. Climb a tree. Nothing makes you feel like a kid again like climbing a tree. But it also builds self-confidence and self-reliance. It physically removes you from the stressors of your life.
93. Visit a zoo. The Attention Restoration Theory claims that an individual will concentrate better after observing nature. Being in the moment with nature also improves sense of well-being, and wakes the senses.
Last week we had a blast discussing fun and what makes us laugh. It’s only fitting that we include animals and nature this week.
As we talked about last time, there are certain activities that re-connect us to simpler times, when we had a different outlook as children. I think today’s episode with animals and nature can do just that.
We have become so accustomed to artificial lights, climate-controlled buildings, and blue screens that we’ve lost sight of the simplicity and comfort of this beautiful and fascinating world that our God created for us. We hope you feel encouraged to go out and enjoy what He has made for us!