May 6 to 12 is Mental Health Awareness week.
We chose to focus on mental fitness as an important aspect of overall mental health, and how it relates to alleviating stressors in our daily lives. Managing stress is a proven strategy to prevent more serious illnesses, both mental and physical.
We asked two of our Cannabis Curation Committee members who are well-versed in health and fitness to provide some guidance and inspiration.
Cheney has gathered an impressive body of knowledge during her time as a wellness therapist. Read her tips for arming yourself against stress and achieving a new level of awareness and mindfulness.
CHENEY (Vancouver, BC)
Cannabis therapy advocate and practitioner + Horticultural Therapist
Movement and Stillness
Just like physical fitness, mental fitness is an important aspect of our overall well-being. Physical fitness is often associated with moving more and being more active, but with our busy world and overactive minds, one of the best things for mental fitness can be learning how to slow down, quiet and calm the mind, and connect with stillness, rather than more activity.
That said, any well-rounded fitness model must embrace both movement and stillness! Just as rest and recovery are important for maintaining optimal physical fitness – a part of mental fitness is definitely about moving ideas, stimulating creativity, and innovative thinking. It’s about finding the right blend of movement and stillness for you and your fitness needs at any given time!
In the same way that physical fitness can’t be achieved by simply spending an hour at the gym and then just lying down for the other 23 hours in the day – one hour of seated meditation with no attention to your mental state for the rest of the day is not really enough to fully manage your daily stress.
Just as we need to find small ways to be physically active throughout our day - we need to incorporate regular little mental boosts, stress busters, and resilience tools to keep mentally fit. We need techniques that can be applied anywhere and anytime for 30 seconds or 2 minutes, here and there as needed. Stress comes to us in random waves throughout the day – some big and some small. We can learn to apply complementary tools throughout the day to address stress as it comes.
5 Tips for Mental Fitness
#1 - Pause and Connect Before Consuming
Overview: What we consume on a daily basis is a key factor in maintaining both good physical and mental fitness. We consume information as well as substances – some are obviously better for us than others! However, it’s not just ‘what’ we are consuming that is important to staying fit. ‘How’ we consume anything can significantly impact its effects and potential benefits.
Practice: Before consuming anything (cake, coffee, cannabis, or comment threads), take just 30-60 seconds to pause and check-in with yourself and the environment around you. Notice how you feel physically, as well as your emotional state. Observe your mental processes and recognize if your mind is calm, busy, agitated, or clear. Connect with the environment around you and notice any sights, sounds, or sensations that you are drawn to.
Don’t take enough time to pass any judgment on these observations or solve any perceived problems – just witness. This is a practice in being able to pause, notice, and respect what is. This will help your mind to stay in a state of openness and creativity instead of judgment and limited thinking.
Resources & ideas to enhance the experience:
• Patricia Katz has an amazing blog with more great ideas on how to Pause.
• Get a mental fitness buddy! Find someone who also wants to practice increasing their mental fitness and find new and unique ways to encourage each other to pause and connect before consuming! Let us know how it goes!
#2 - Engage Your Senses
Overview: Consciously directing our attention to our sensory experiences is a great way to boost our mental fitness. We can use this practice anywhere and anytime to quiet our minds and enhance our experience of any given situation. This can be a great practice to accompany any daily ritual.
Practice: Whether you’re grinding coffee or grinding cannabis – simply fully engage all of your senses in the process. Notice the sounds of the grinding, the subtle shades and colours of the beans or flowers, the pungent and complex aromas, the textures and qualities in the fingers, and finally the full taste sensations. By immersing ourselves in this way we can enhance our perception and appreciation of the physical sensations while also increasing the benefits from the mindfulness practice.
Local resources & ideas to enhance the experience:
• For an extravagant aromatic sensory experience, I highly recommend connecting with The Blending Bar in Maple Ridge, BC for an aroma cocktail party with friends or a personal aromatherapy consultation to create your own signature scent.
#3 - Spend Time Connecting with Nature
Overview: Scientific research on the benefits of spending time in and with nature is finally making its way into mainstream health and wellness news. There are numerous studies showing that time in nature can significantly reduce the impacts of stress on our bodies and minds. Research has demonstrated that simple houseplants and views of nature can significantly decrease workplace stress and reduce patient recovery times in hospitals.
So, even when we can’t get outside – we can connect with nature through our food, our breath, our plant medicines, and numerous other ways. Get outside as often as you can (forests and treed areas are the best!), and when you can’t, you can connect with nature through a houseplant, a view, some cannabis flowers, or simply an apple!
Practice: Whether you are inside or outside, choose a particular natural object that you are drawn to, that you would like to work with for this practice. This may be a tree, a rock or crystal, a plant or plant material, or any natural object that you can sit near and observe.
Start by finding a comfortable place to sit with your chosen nature object nearby. Engage each of your senses with this piece of nature. Consider the life and history of this object and how it came to be here with you. Sit and be still and simply witness what happens inside and around you – for at least 15 minutes if possible. You really don’t need to spend very long to get the benefits from connecting with nature, but it is often said that if you don’t have 15 minutes to spend, you probably need to sit for an hour.
Local resources & ideas to enhance the experience:
• Join me (Cheney) for a Guided Nature Therapy Walk on Burnaby Mountain
• Learn about indigenous plant use from a Coast Salish educator through the Stanley Park Ecology Society
• Visit some green spaces and parks in Metro Vancouver
• Enjoy some of Metro Vancouver’s best beaches
#4 - Move Your Body to Change Your Mind
Overview: How we move our bodies can have an immediate and noticeable impact on our mental and emotional states. Sometimes, in order to quiet the mind, you must move the body. But that doesn’t necessarily always mean vigorous exercise. How you move your body matters, and what your mind needs from your body to feel fit will vary throughout the day. On some occasions, your mind may crave a slower pace, while at other times you may feel irritated by the same slow pace.
Practicing this mindful movement technique can help determine what type of physical activity would be best suited for your mental fitness in the moment.
Practice: Find anywhere that you can walk freely without tripping hazards. Walk for about 10-15 paces at your normal/comfortable walking pace just to observe your baseline. Now walk the next 10-15 paces about 30% faster than your normal pace. Stop and notice your mental state. Did it feel invigorating to move faster, or did it feel rushed and make you anxious? Just notice, don’t judge (there is no right or wrong). Next, walk 10-15 paces about 30% slower than your normal pace. Notice how that shifted your mental state. Did it feel good to slow down, or did it make you crave more of the speed walking?
Whatever you discover in your short mindful movement practice, simply notice and then find a way to give your mind a bit of what it needs from your body! Go for a run or play with a dog if you need to move around or give yourself a nice 15 minutes of snail walking (or resting against a tree!) if that’s what you need. Move your body in different ways to create your desired mental state!
Local resources & ideas to enhance the experience:
• This practice can be particularly useful if you are having an anxious cannabis experience. It can help you to quickly determine what might support you best in that moment to relieve the anxiety.
• You can practice this mindful movement technique anywhere, but there are lots of great options for beautiful and easy walks around Vancouver.
#5 - Commit to Unreasonable Joy
Overview: Like I said at the beginning – mental fitness is not all about simply quieting and calming the mind. Sometimes we need to be inspired, we need to laugh, and we need to grow and create.
This tip is all about expressing your weird and wonderful self, finding what brings you unreasonable amounts of joy – and doing more of that!
Practice: Simply as the title suggests – find something that makes you smile, brings a giggle to your belly, or a sparkle to your mind – and just dive right in! If it’s watching funny goat videos that makes your day - watch more! Wanna step it up a notch – find some goat yoga near you!
Surround yourself with small reminders, images, and items that bring you the feeling of unreasonable joy. Keep these special treasures near and commit to engaging with everything that makes you giggle as often as possible!
Local resources & ideas to enhance the experience: • My favourite picture in the whole world is Kohler’s Pig (or Diving Pig) by Michael Sowa – it brings me immense unreasonable joy and hangs above my office door. Look it up – maybe it will do the same for you 😊.
• Experience Goat Yoga in North Vancouver
• So many amazing things to do and see – commit to unreasonable joy at any of these places!
Maintaining fitness involves being aware of how your daily activities (both physical and mental) are contributing to your overall wellness. It also involves implementing a variety of activities or practices (both physical and mental) to build strength and resilience. Regular repetition of these actions will then create more fluidity and ease with these practices that help keep you fit. Most importantly, start simple and have fun.
Follow along on our Instagram Story this week to see Cheney and Kyle's tips in action!
Read Part 2 of the Mental Fitness Blog by Kyle here!