The Environment and Our Mental Health

As humans, our overall health is significantly affected by our natural and built environment: where we are born, live, learn, work, play, and congregate all influence our health. While we often think of these environmental factors as relating largely to our physical health, it is important to consider the effect of our environment on our mental health and well-being.

What we know for sure is that there are many factors that contribute to mental well-being, and we all benefit from stable environments, strong communities, and ready access to needed services. During this year’s Mental Health Month, which has been celebrated annually in May since 1949, Mental Health America invites you to Look Around, Look Within as we consider every part of our environment and its effect on our mental health and well-being. While some aspects of our environment may be outside of our immediate control, in other areas we have the potential to make change. Consider your home, your community, and the time you spend in nature and what you might modify to make these environments more supportive of your well-being.

Wherever you call “home,” it should give you feelings of comfort, support, and calmness. If not, there are things you can do to your space to help you be more productive, reach your goals, and improve your mental health. Check out the suggestions here.

When it comes to our community, the area that you live in plays a significant role in how healthy you are. A strong sense of community within neighborhoods protects mental health through shared support, resources, and joy. Check out these suggestions for ways to make your community more supportive of your well-being.

Spending time in nature has been linked to many positive mental health outcomes, including improved focus, lower stress, better mood, reduced risk of developing mental health conditions, and a sense of connection to yourself, community, and purpose. Being around nature does not have to mean hiking in a forest. It can be walking in a park, bringing a plant inside, or sitting in your backyard. Need some more ideas? Check out the suggestions here.

If you’re looking for local resources, your schools’ Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great place to start.  For our Cigna members, check out the Cigna Mental Health Toolkit.

When it comes to enhancing our mental health, there may be more within our control than we see at first glance. Take small steps each day to make your environment more supportive of your mental health and remember to be patient with yourself as you adjust to new habits and routines. Change does not happen overnight but with consistent action, change is possible.

Article content shared with permission from Mental Health America.