Cultivate Mental Health Through Gardening

by Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

With warmer weather upon us and more daylight every day, my thoughts have turned to spending more time outdoors. Last year I spent more time at home because of the pandemic, and during this time I rekindled my interest in gardening. I was not alone, as there was a surge in interest as evidenced by increased sales of plants and garden-related items. This renewed interest in gardening is expected to grow.

zucchini plant growing

Zucchini growing in my garden last year

Gardening is probably one of the most common ways of interacting with nature. The hands-on aspect of gardening is very appealing. After spending an hour in the garden I can see the results of my work right away. I find there is something satisfying about picking flowers or eating something that I grew, perhaps only minutes after I picked it. I even potted my herbs and moved them indoors for the winter, so I could spice up my wintertime meals. The fruits of your gardening labors may be more than the vegetables or flowers that you grow. It turns out that gardening can also be a great way to cultivate mental health.

Gardening and Mental Health

Although research on young people’s mental health and gardening is limited, within the larger area of studying nature-related activities, researchers have found that gardening has a significant positive impact on several aspects of health. They found a number of health benefits, including reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms and stress, and increased positive emotions, quality of life, sense of community, and physical activity levels. Some benefits can appear right away, but it is unclear how long they persist. It is reasonable to assume the gardening activity needs to be continued to sustain them.

Possible Pathways to Health: How are these benefits possible?

Gardening can be a boon to psychological, physical, and social health. What are the possible pathways for how these benefits can be achieved?

  • Direct exposure to nature and the outdoors by spending time outside has been found to have a restorative and calming effect. It shifts focus, provides an escape, and may facilitate reflection.
  • Beyond the more obvious physical benefits from gardening, it can indirectly have a psychological health benefit. The mechanism for how this works for psychological health isn’t clear, but it could be that increased physical activity is the “driver” of improved mood, as such a connection with physical activity has been demonstrated in other studies.
  • The food produced in gardens provides healthy eating options, which can directly contribute to physical health. People may be more willing to try something that they grew themselves.
  • Gardening is a purposeful activity with a tangible product. A harvest of colorful flowers or tasty vegetables provides a sense of achievement and feelings of success. Mastering new knowledge and skills (that is, things like knowing what and when to plant and the practical tasks of tending plants) can lead to a feeling of accomplishment, which can be a mechanism for mental well-being.

    man and boy in garden

    Make gardening a family activity

  • Social connections may develop by participating in gardening activities as a family or with another group such as a 4-H club. Community gardening allows people to find others with common interests and interact with others in a shared experience.

Young people may be exposed to gardening through a school or after-school community-based program, often accompanied by additional lessons, with the goal of influencing fruit and vegetable consumption. However, it may be more difficult to translate this interest into a home garden. On the other hand, an interest in gardening may grow from family connections.

Ideas for Getting Started or Expanding Your Garden

  • Start with a container garden and branch out from there.
  • Get your family involved.
  • Volunteer to help a family member or neighbor with their garden.
  • Research school-based or community gardens in your area. If one is not available in your area, what would it take to start one? Check out our post on how to create an action plan if starting such a project is something you want to take on. For some inspiration, read about a school garden outreach program started by OSU medical students.

It’s important to recognize that taking on a garden involves responsibility–you will have to tend to it on a regular basis, such as keeping it watered and weeded. The weather or insects may present setbacks. Will you still be interested in caring for your garden after the novelty wears off or you encounter problems? Recognize that having a garden may involve some expenses for seeds, plants, and equipment if not already on hand. If you need help getting started, your local OSU Extension office and Master Gardener Volunteer programs can offer gardening advice.

Time to dig in and harvest the benefits of gardening!

garden vegetables

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References

Evans, A., Ranjit, N., Rutledge, R., Medina, J., Jennings, R., Smiley, A., Stigler, M., & Hoelscher, D. (2012). Exposure to multiple components of a garden-based intervention for middle school students increases fruit and vegetable consumption. Health Promotion Practice, 13(5), 608–616. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524839910390357

Masterton, W., Carver, H., Parkes, T., & Park, K. (2020). Greenspace interventions for mental health in clinical and non-clinical populations: What works, for whom, and in what circumstances? Health and Place, 64, 102338. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2020.102338

Ober Allen, J., Alaimo, K., Elam, D., & Perry, E. (2008). Growing vegetables and values: Benefits of neighborhood-based community gardens for youth development and nutrition. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition, 3(4), 418–439. https://doi.org/10.1080/19320240802529169

Shao, Y., Elsadek, M., & Liu, B. (2020). Horticultural activity: Its contribution to stress recovery and wellbeing for children. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17, 1229. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17041229

Skelton, K. R., Lowe, C., Zaltz, D. A., & Benjamin-Neelon, S. E. (2020). Garden-based interventions and early childhood health: An umbrella review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 17, 121. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-020-01023-5

Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, 92–99. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.11.007

Van Den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. H. G. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal of Health Psychology, 16(1), 3–11. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105310365577

Connect the Dots for Mental Health

Ohio 4-H decided to focus on mental health during the month of January 2021. Mental health has always been important, but the need to focus on mental health was never more apparent than in 2020.

Throughout the month, members of the 4-H Healthy Living Design Team wrote about different dimensions of wellness. Even though our focus was on mental health, we touched on many other aspects of health– physical, emotional, social, intellectual, environmental, financial, and creative. We presented some background information, suggested strategies to address each area, and shared our own experiences.

If you look back over the month, I think you can see how all the different dimensions of wellness are related to each other. For example, one way to make mindfulness part of our day is to listen when someone is talking to us. In turn, this will lead to better social connections, which will enhance our social health. Social connection creates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional, and physical well-being. In fact, research suggest that the quality of our social ties might be the single biggest predictor of our well-being. We can reach out to friends when we’re feeling stressed; in turn, we can check in with our family and friends to be the person that they turn to when they need support.

Of course, physical activity helps keep our body healthy. But that’s not all it does. Engaging in physical activity is recommended as a way to manage stress, which addresses our mental health. And even better when we can take that activity outdoors. Then we can practice mindfulness when we take in the sights, sounds, and smells when we’re walking outdoors.

Self-care strategies keep us healthy in many ways: in addition to physical activity, getting enough sleep; eating healthful foods; and making time for fun, learning, and creative activities are things we can do. Some of these strategies may require us to establish better habits to make them a regular part of our lifestyle.

The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for everyone. It’s easy to think of what we didn’t get to do. However, I think you can probably think of some good things that happened last year. Among my family and friends there were high school and college graduations, weddings, new babies, new homes, new jobs, and other milestones. They may have looked different, but life kept on going. It’s important to pause and recognize the good things that happen every day, no matter how small.  Another way to see the connections is in the COPE with COVID suggestions put forth by Dr. Bern Melnyk, Chief Wellness Officer at The Ohio State University and Dean of the College of Nursing. You can see how these suggestions incorporate aspects of physical, mental, emotional, and social health, as well as gratitude and mindfulness.

Today’s Take-Away: Look for ways to pledge your health to better living. The resources developed for Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month are posted on our webpage. But even though the month is over, we will continue to share information, ideas, and inspiration about healthy living topics throughout the year.

Yours in Health,

Signature

Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Get Your Zs

Ahh – Saturday…The day many of us can face the day at a slower pace and lay in bed a little longer. I know I look forward to not getting out of bed quite as early that day! And, if my teenage children don’t have a sports, school, or 4-H activity that morning, they will sleep for as long as I let them.

The question is how long should I let them sleep? Is it really okay for teens (or adults for that matter) to sleep in past noon? I cannot remember when I last slept that late into the day, but I do remember how I felt. I did not end up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Instead, I recall feeling groggy and having a headache.

Research on the importance of sleep tell us exactly why sleeping in had an adverse effect on how I felt. The reality is our bodies prefer consistency and routine. And developing good sleep hygiene is important to our physical and mental health. Good sleep hygiene means we create an environment beneficial to sleep, and we practice daily routines that foster consistent sleep. The following information from the Sleep Foundation can help.

To create a good environment for sleeping, take a look around your bedroom.

  • Is your mattress and pillow of good quality and provide proper support?
  • Does your bedding keep you too cold or too warm?
  • Do you have too much light in the room from the windows or a nightlight?
  • What temperature is the room? Ideally a cool room is best.
  • Is it a quiet place with minimum noise? Can you reduce noise with the use of a fan or a white noise machine?

Think about your daily sleep routines. Are you following these recommended strategies?

  • Set a fixed time to wake up and stick to it, even on weekends.
  • Budget time for enough sleep. Recommended guidelines vary by age. Aim for the following based on your age:
    • 9-11 hours for school-age children
    • 8-10 hours for teens
    • 7-9 hours for adults
  • Only take naps when needed. If you take a nap, the best time of day is early afternoon, and the best nap length is 20 minutes.
  • If you need to alter to your sleep routine due to a change in school or work schedule, do it gradually. Adjust a little at a time to get your body used to the new schedule.

Tips for self-care and stress management all recommend getting enough sleep, so it’s about time we devoted a post to this topic. For more information on sleep hygiene and healthy sleep tips, visit What is Sleep Hygiene?

So, how do I prevent sleeping in on Saturdays? I’ve found that scheduling something on my calendar helps. Appointments for haircuts, meeting someone for a walk in the park, attending a fitness class at the gym, or attending one of my kids’ sports events all help to keep me and my teens from hitting snooze one more time.

Wishing you pleasant dreams and peaceful sleep,

Laryssa Hook, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Delaware County

Keep Calm and Puzzle On

Puzzles have been around for a long time. But who knew that January 29 is National Puzzle Day! And why not have a day devoted to puzzles – they’re fun. And because they involve focus and concentration, they also serve as stress relievers, which may explain their increased popularity during the pandemic. Even Bill Gates is said to be a fan.

Let’s puzzle on and focus on two favorites of mine: word puzzles and jigsaw puzzles.

Word Puzzles

To say that I like words would be an understatement. I remember doing all sorts of vocabulary builders in elementary school, and I would read books past my bedtime with a flashlight under the covers. Even now I subscribe to Merriam Webster’s Word of the Day. In 5th grade I placed second in a spelling bee and in a fire prevention essay contest. I didn’t really discover I was a good writer until I was in graduate school the second time around. So maybe there’s a theme there….hmmm.

Probably the most well-known type of word puzzle is the crossword puzzle. I found out that Arthur Wynn, a journalist from Liverpool, is credited as being the inventor of the first crossword puzzle, which was published in the New York World newspaper in 1913. Other word puzzles appeared more recently. Mad Libs was created in the 1950s. Word searches appeared in the U.S. in 1968, and now there are many variations.

Jigsaw Puzzles

The precursor to the modern-day jigsaw puzzle dates back to the 1760s in England. Called “dissections,” they were maps mounted on wood and cut apart, as a way to teach children geography. It’s interesting to note that researchers recently completed the first study of the process children use to do jigsaw puzzles. The study revealed that 3-year-olds use trial and error to put them together, but 4-year-olds are able to use information in the picture to complete the puzzle, indicating changes in how their brains process information.

Puzzles and Health – Besides being fun, puzzles have several other health-related benefits.

Intellectual Health: Puzzles demand a level of thought and focus. Spending time regularly working on puzzles improves memory and problem-solving skills. It’s great when fun and learning can be combined!

Studies have found that when we work on a jigsaw puzzle, we use both sides of our brain. Your left brain is logical and works in a linear fashion; it sees all the separate pieces and attempts to sort them out logically. You find the corners and all the straight-edge puzzle pieces first, right? Your right brain is the creative side – it sees the “big picture” and works intuitively. As you study the image and its details, your brain taps into visual-spatial patterns. I would argue the same is true for word puzzles. Although they may not appear so on the surface, word puzzles are about patterns, too – words, after all, are letters arranged in a meaningful way. In exercising both sides of the brain at the same time, we create connections between both sides, as well as connections between individual brain cells. These connections increase our ability to learn, to comprehend, and to remember.

Social Health: Puzzles also offer social benefits. When we work together with someone on a task, we strengthen our social connections. Those interactions keep us socially active, which is important for our mental health. Because jigsaw puzzles are pictures, they can bridge language barriers.

Mental Health: As we connect two puzzle pieces together (you know that feeling!), our brains release dopamine, which has a positive effect on our mood. When you concentrate while sorting pieces by color and shape or you scan back and forth to find the words in a word search, you tune out other distractions, so puzzling helps us keep calm. There’s something to be said for actually touching jigsaw puzzle pieces and using paper and pencil to complete a crossword. It also gives us a break from screen time.

What’s the deal with screen time? Screen time could be the topic of an entire post, but I’ll summarize here. Research has shown an association between time spent using screen media and psychological well-being.  For example, in one study, high users of screens were significantly more likely to display poor emotion regulation (not staying calm, arguing too much, being difficult to get along with), an inability to finish tasks, lower curiosity, and more difficulty making friends. Researchers have yet to establish a causal relationship – it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ thing: Which came first? Did screen use lead to these things, or were people with those characteristics more likely to use screens? And does the type of screen use matter? What else might be involved? We won’t solve that puzzle today, but suffice it to say that too much screen use and certain types of it might be problematic.

Screens and COVID – With remote schooling and socializing, screen time has likely increased during the coronavirus pandemic. It seems like a contradiction: We should connect to people (even if virtually), and yet we are cautioned against spending too much time on screens. Keep up those connections, but it’s still recommended that we take a break from screens when we can.

Today’s Take-Away: I hope that learning about the health benefits didn’t take the fun out of puzzles for you, but instead it gives you an appreciation of how fun, health, and learning are connected.

a page with letters and words

Mental Health Month Word Search

As we are getting close to the end of January and wrapping up our Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month, I created a word search (using the search generator below), using words that have appeared in our posts this month. You can download it here.

Of course, you can take advantage of existing puzzles and word games. You can take it a step further by creating your own. Creating word puzzles used to be a time-consuming task…until the internet arrived. Now there are countless programs and online tools that help you create your own puzzles in no time. These are just a few:

Snow is predicted this weekend; time to keep calm and puzzle on and have a little fun in honor of National Puzzle Day!

Yours in Health,

Signature

 

Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Resilience

I think we all can agree that we have COVID-19 fatigue, and what we thought would go away in 2020 is still with us. As we are winding down Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month, I am hopeful you have found a few tips or tricks that you can add to your mental health tool kit and pull out whenever you need a little boost.

Today’s “Thoughtful Thursday” post really hit home for me. Helen Keller has always been an inspiring individual, and I have read so much about her and all the things she was able to accomplish. If you do not know much about her, now is a great time to research her and reflect on today’s quote.

One of the groups I work closely with in Fairfield County are the Junior Leaders. This group of teens, ages 13 and up, work with peers from all over the county to promote 4-H, develop leadership skills, and conduct community service projects. In 2019, this group of teens decided to use another Helen Keller quotation on their club shirts. “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” I think this quotation holds as much power today as the one in our social media post!

During this time of COVID, I know I feel like I am spinning my wheels and not accomplishing nearly as much as I should be. But I do not think that is what I should be focusing on. Instead, I need to shift my thinking and focus on the good things happening around me and getting back to how I felt before ‘the world shut down.’ Resilience is just that, the ability to recover from any difficulties and to come back stronger than before. Another definition of resilience that I love is ‘toughness,’ which I think we all have developed from experiencing and surviving the pandemic thus far.

For some of us, we need that support and connection from others to do great things, and it is important that we realize that trait in ourselves. My challenge for you today is to take time to reflect on what makes you resilient and what you may need to come back stronger than before. When things return to ‘normal’-ish, I hope you are able to share those skills and activities you have discovered during this difficult time with your 4-H club members, family, or friends. Let us all work together so that we can accomplish all the things we want to do and more to make our world a better place.

Wish you all the best,

Aubry Fowler, Fairfield County 4-H Educator

 

When was the last time you checked in?

It is no secret that COVID-19 has affected us in many ways, including taking a toll on our social health. Social health can be defined as our ability to interact with others and form meaningful relationships. While we may not be able to interact with our friends and family like we used to, that does not mean we cannot find new ways to connect.

One of my favorite things is receiving and sending cards. When I was in college, my grandmother would send me a card almost every week, and I would tack them on my wall or around my window frame so I could see them anytime I needed a pick me up. Those cards meant that someone was thinking of me and cheering me on during difficult times. I have kept most of those cards and have them stored in a special place, so when I am feeling down, I can pull a stack out and reminisce about that fun time.

I share this story because letter writing feels like a lost art form these days with Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat readily available at our fingertips. However, that instantaneous joy we get from a “like” or new snap does not last as long as the joy I get from a handwritten note or letter. My challenge for you during this difficult time is send a “thinking of you” card to a friend or family member – even if you ‘see them every day on social media’- I bet that you reaching out would make their day.

If letter writing is not your speed, try calling that friend or family member. There does not have to be “a reason” for calling other than to check in and see how their day is going. During this time of masks and social distancing, we must be more intentional about making connections and strengthening those relationships we have. Not sure a letter or a phone call will help you connect? The National Institutes of Health has a great Social Wellness Toolkit if you need other ideas or new ways to improve your social health. Today would be a great day to check it out and check in on your own social health.

Resources:

My current display of cards from family and friends – I love having them sit out where I can easily see them when I need a moment to connect

Wishing you all the best,

Aubry Fowler, Fairfield County 4-H Educator

Continuing to Cope with COVID

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has increased concerns about mental health. One reason we feel stress is because of the uncertainty of the situation. Is school going to be in-person, virtual, or hybrid? How many times will it change? Will high school graduation be in person or virtual? When will I be able to see my grandparents? Now that we are coming up to nearly a year of wearing masks; changes to home, school, and work; and experiencing restrictions on in-person gatherings, we’re wondering when it’s going to end.

It’s normal to feel stress and worry during a crisis. However, the particulars of the pandemic have taken this stress to another level. In addition to uncertainty, there are several other things that contribute to it. Stay-at-home orders, school closures, and restrictions on activities and gatherings have limited social interactions. Young people have experienced disruption by missing out on life events that are part of a final year of high school and milestones such as graduations. In the process they also missed out on many opportunities important for social development. There is a large body of research that links social isolation and loneliness to poor mental and physical health. What can we do?

Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, and it is normal to experience a wide range of emotions. We can’t wave a magic wand and make everything return to ‘normal.’ However, there are a number of healthy ways to cope with stress. These recommendations seem so simple, maybe too simple, right? Yet, they are offered over and over again by mental health experts, from well-respected organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Mayo Clinic.

I have categorized the recommendations for coping with stress into Four Cs.

  •  CARE – Take care of your body (and mind).
  • Relax and recharge. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate.
    • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
    • Exercise regularly.
    • Get plenty of sleep.
    • Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and substance use.
    • Continue with routine preventive measures (such as vaccinations, health check-ups, etc.) as recommended by your healthcare provider.
    • Get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine when available.
  • CREATE – Make time to unwind to do some activities you enjoy. Creative activities like art are especially engaging. Maybe you will discover a new interest. Some people like to keep their thoughts in a journal. Expressive writing helps people process difficult emotions and find meaning.
  • CONNECT – There are actually three ways to Connect.
    • (Dis)connect – Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. It’s good to be informed, but hearing about the pandemic constantly can be upsetting. A recent study found that one major contributor to anxiety for people of all ages was increased engagement with media. Especially problematic is exposure to conflicting information. Consider limiting news to just a couple times a day and make a conscious effort to spend less time in front of a screen disconnecting from phone, TV, and computer screens for a while. This is challenging when so many aspects of our life are being conducted virtually.
    • Connect – with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling. Social connections are important for your overall health.
    • Connect – with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, maintain your connections with organizations through online meetings.
  • CONTRIBUTE – Find purpose in helping the people around you.
    • Support a family member or friend.  Reach out to others to stay in contact, especially if they live alone. If you know someone who can’t get out, ask if there’s something they need. Don’t rely only on social media; make a phone call or write a note.
    • Do something for others. Find ways to contribute to your community. Be sure to follow recommendations on social distancing and group meetings.

Today’s Take-Away: There are many healthy ways to cope with stress. Sometimes even when you practice self-care and coping strategies, stress can overwhelm you. Some mental health situations may call for professional help. You may find this resource My Mental Health: Do I Need Help? from the National Institute of Mental Health helpful.

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know needs to be connected to professional resources, Ohio State University’s Center for Public Health Practice has compiled Mental Health Resource Guides. Go to u.osu.edu/cphp/ohio-mental-health-resource-guides/, find the county you need, and select it to bring up local resources.

Yours in Heath,

Signature

Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Make Mindfulness Part of Your Day

Mindfulness is the ongoing process of paying attention to your thoughts, emotions, and experiences in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and without judging. Earlier this month I wrote about getting started in mindfulness – what it is and why it’s important. Today’s post offers some ideas for make mindfulness part of your day.

Mindfulness can help us do two things throughout our day:

  • Be focused – you are able to concentrate on what you’re doing
  • Be aware – you recognize distractions as they arise and return to focus

Let’s break down two types of mindfulness practices:

Formal mindfulness can be practiced through things like breathing exercises, guided relaxation, and meditation.

  • Set aside time for mindfulness practices. Although the beginning and/or the end of the day make sense, there is no “right” time. Just figure out what makes the most sense to you. You can start out slowly and gradually increase the amount to time you devote to these practices. Setting aside a regular time may make it easier to establish mindfulness as a habit. However, short mindfulness breaks throughout the day can help us to make a transition from one activity to the next and can aid in focusing on the task at hand.
  • Find an app that can aid your practice of mindfulness, with body scan, guided relaxation, or calming sounds. Read these reviews of five mindfulness apps to decide if one of them might work for you.
  • Record yourself or a friend or family member reading a guided relaxation script. If apps aren’t your thing, you could make your own recording. Make sure to speak slowly and pause as you read.

Informal mindfulness means going about your daily activities in a more mindful frame of mind.

  • Pay attention while you go about your everyday activities such as eating, doing chores, or taking a walk. We are often rushing through our day on autopilot. Instead, shift your focus to the sights, physical feelings, sounds, smells, and tastes of these activities instead.
  • Spend some time without the distractions of technology and social media. To stay connected, we need to disconnect! Put your phone aside when interacting with others. Listening is an important skill to learn, and it will help you cultivate social connections. But it’s hard to pay attention when someone is speaking is notifications from your phone keep distracting you.
  • Get outside. Research continues to show that there are many mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness in nature.

Resources for Mindfulness

1. Here are some resources for audio recordings of guided relaxations:

2. A brief mindfulness activity that you can do involves your five senses.

Focus on your five senses, one at a time. Try to mindfully experience each sense as you focus on it.

    • Look: 5 things you can see
    • Feel: 4 things you can touch
    • Listen: 3 things you can hear
    • Smell: 2 things you can smell
    • Taste: 1 thing you can taste

Today’s Take-Away: The point of practicing mindfulness is to make it a habit or routine as part of a healthy lifestyle. Use the ideas and resources shared here to make mindfulness part of your day. Take it a step further and get others to join you – build in mindfulness practices as a regular part of your 4-H club meetings or other gatherings.

Yours in Health,

Signature

Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Resource: Banks, B., & Bercaw, S. (2018). Get Experience in Mindfulness: An Awareness and Acceptance Stress Management Program for Ages 10 & Up. University of Delaware.

Take a Virtual Museum Tour

Today’s post for “Social Sunday” on the Ohio 4-H Facebook page encourages you to tour a museum virtually with friends and gives several suggestions of museums to visit. I thought this topic fit well with Friday’s post about planning an imaginary road trip. In the case of a virtual tour, you can take the trip, it’s just virtual. Whether you tour with friends or by yourself, it’s a great way to have fun and learn at the same time.

Virtual tours can consist of a collection of videos, still images, 3D walk-throughs, and written descriptions that help you feel as though you’re visiting the museum. Although it will not be everything in the museum’s collection, you will still get to see some amazing things.

The Google Arts & Culture site is a gold mine of virtual museum tours. This online platform will connect you with over 2,000 museums from 80 countries. Art, culture, history, and science will be at your fingertips. I think you will be amazed at the diversity of offerings. You can sort them alphabetically and also view a map that shows geographic locations. I found at least 15 that I had already visited., but you could visit a different one every day for a year and still have more to see!

Some of these museums are close to us in Ohio – the Toledo Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont. Others are worlds away – from Australia to Uzbekistan and everywhere in between. I found several that I know I will go back to visit virtually – including the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky, and the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. So many others piqued my curiosity – whether it was the topic or the location: the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands; the Art Museum of Estonia; and the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, just to name a few. I’m looking forward to more exploration, and like the imaginary road trip, maybe someday I will get to visit more of these museums in person.

Virtual museum tours are a way to exercise your creative wellness, one of many wellness dimensions. Creative wellness has been called the missing link in boosting well-being. Research shows that engagement with artistic activities, either as an observer or a creator, can enhance a person’s mood and thus they play a role in reducing stress. Taking time to appreciate others’ creative efforts help us to appreciate the world around us, connect with others, and may inspire our own creative spirit. Expressing your emotions and views through the arts can be a great way to practice self-care and to cultivate social connections.

Today’s Take-Away: Visit the Google Arts & Culture website, find a least one museum that interests you, and invite a friend or family member to take a virtual tour with you.

Visit the Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month page for more resources, and come back here for more information and ideas.

Yours in Health,

Signature

Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Self-Care Saturday: Take Some Time for You

Do you ever feel like there are phrases that were created by people out in the world who just want to sell you things? That is what I think has happened to the phrase “self-care.” Companies have taken this phrase to create a reason why we need stuff, particularly their stuff, but it does not have to be that way. Let us take a moment to look at what self-care means and how we can achieve self-care time at home.

Self-care is vitally important to how we care for ourselves and includes our physical, mental, and emotional health. It is about taking time to check in with ourselves and making sure that all our needs are met. It also means engaging in activities that promote overall well-being and reducing stress. This last part is key because self-care looks different for everyone, and what I enjoy may not be enjoyable for others.

If you have not seen today’s Ohio 4-H Mental Health Month tip on the Ohio 4-H Facebook page, it is about creating an at-home spa day. I am one of those people who enjoys a good bubble bath, and this is a great way for me to practice self-care. Here are some things I will be grabbing from my cabinet: epsom salts, bubble bath soap, and essential oils, which I will enjoy while reading a good book. I will prioritize taking time to be alone, reflecting on this busy week and month (if I feel like it), and just enjoying my down time. Use items you already have at home, or purchase things you enjoy to create your own at-home spa day.

Not the bubble bath type? That is great too. Think about the activity that brings you joy and relaxation and make time for that instead. I hope your takeaway today is: find an activity that reenergizes you and reduces those feelings of stress. Maybe it is riding a bike, calling a friend to chat, reading a book, or just taking a nap. Whatever you need for your self-care should be the priority during your designated “Self-Care Time.”

Want to learn more about self-care and/or activities to try? Check out these resources from Extension programs across the nation:

Wishing you the best,

Aubry Fowler, Fairfield County 4-H Educator