I’m just popping in to share a few things in honour of today being World Mental Health Day 2017.
Firstly, for my Reading buddies: a date for your diary!
At 20:00 on Saturday 4th November 2017, Doris Allimadi will perform her monologue on depression at South Street Arts Centre:
#damnthestigma is a monologue showing a journey through depression, a blend of personal accounts with fiction. The monologue also explores the general public’s perception on the topic and stigma attached to depression, suicide and mental health in general.
You can buy tickets here and I am going because I found Doris’s book – Lost, my battle with depression – comforting, honest and relatable. I love the life-affirming mantra that she repeats throughout like a kind and wise reminder – “self-love, self-respect and self-belief” – and her brave and candid discussion of mental health. She also gives context for the specific ways in which mental health affects women of colour which is a focus, too, for the magnificent gal-dem blog and a specific area of mental health that requires greater understanding.
I discovered Doris and her book through our mutual interest in addressing Reading’s appalling homelessness problem. This year I have been increasingly concerned about the rise of homelessness in my town. Austerity cuts to the local council’s budget have directly affected provisions for homeless people here and you can see the consequences everywhere. There are many people in need and clearly suffering on these streets. In a place as affluent as Berkshire this seems just plain wrong and earlier this year I started looking for ways to help directly. Searching for solutions I found this article about Doris making up food parcels to distribute to homeless people here.
I’ll say more about homelessness and what I’m doing about it in a later post but for now, and because of today’s blog focus, let’s just say that Doris is a bit of a local hero of mine and I’m really looking forward to hearing what she has to say on November 4th.
Another thing I always think about in connection to mental health is #mindapples. My dear friend Lara blogged about this concept back in 2011 and I have kept this in mind ever since:
When I read about Mindapples I got quite excited, it is a social enterprise that takes a “5-a-day for your mind” approach. It encourages people to write down 5 mood boosting things, mindapples, that they do every day to look after their mental wellbeing. I’m not sure whether we need a separate organization to do this but it’s an interesting approach… I reckon that my mind doesn’t get as many treats or as much TLC as it should. There are definitely things that make me feel more cheerful or happy: sleep, making dinner at home, going for a walk on a lunch break, spending time outdoors, volunteering, contact with animals, hugging people, quality time with my family or girls, waking before my alarm clock, natural light (lots of it), yoga, making things. But its harder when you think about what you do every day or regularly.
For most of 2017, I have maintained a wellness habit-tracker in my bullet journal. It’s a simple list of stuff I try to do every day to look after myself and includes stuff like “stay hydrated” “take vitamins” etc. but my favourite thing – my juiciest and tastiest daily mindapple, if you will, is “lap of the park”.
I love my park so, so much. We used not to go very often as we only knew of one very noisy and circuitous route. However I recently discovered a sneaky shortcut through a housing estate which means that I can be there inside of ten minutes. It is a place of joy.
Bordered on most sides by luscious tall trees, the park also has a wide open football pitch that is the site for many joyous games. There are also a well-used playground area and basketball court, and benches and outdoor gym apparatus are spaced along the path that runs around the edges. Best of all, the vast grassy area in the middle creates a magnificent sense of space in which to think.
I love the feeling of being alone but also surrounded by my community when I go to my park. A glorious array of dogs are walked here every day and often they are very keen to come up and say their waggy hellos; bats zigzag in the sky at dusk through the summer months; and just now the squirrels of the park are highly active and possessive of their nuts. There is always a lot of activity… many different communities use the green and the courts for games; young people power walk in pairs with pedometers or use the exercise machines stationed around the park; teenagers cluster on benches round stereos; and people walk together, often talking or sometimes walk alone, talking on their phones. But it never feels too noisy, those great big leaves and all that sky just cradle us all together in space and there’s room for all of it with plenty of peace left over besides.
I’ve been stopped before to discuss the politics of the day (the run up to the election was super for park bench discussions) and sometimes I say hello to strangers when our eyes meet under the trees. But sometimes I feel shy and introverted and just want to keep myself to myself. Somehow in the forgiving arms of this beautiful space, however you feel is allowed.
So although I have deadlines to meet, a lot to get done, and frankly the worst bill of health I’ve had in years, I’m keen to make sure I get my favourite mindapple every day this Winter… my “lap of the park”. As Doris might say, it’s part of a practice of “self-love, self-respect and self-belief”. And at least one fellow park user agrees with that idea and its association with our precious, shared green space.
I hope you are getting all your mindapples and that wherever you are in the world, you have a place like my park to go to when you need it.
Yours in Mental Health and glorious, kindly trees,