Bringing awareness to your lifestyle can help you make healthy mental health choices

Photo by Georgia de Lotz

Practicing mindfulness about your daily routines can support your mental health, according to Psychiatric Integrative Wellness Program instructor Debbie Cohen, MEd, MAPP. “It’s too easy to miss all the gifts life has to offer because we’re distracted,” she said. “With support, we can bring ourselves into alignment, where there is more congruence between what we want for ourselves and what we actually do day to day.”

To help provide a framework for creating this kind of alignment, Cohen is teaching a six-week course titled, Let’s Do it Together: Establishing Lifestyle Habits for Mental Health. The class meets virtually on Tuesdays, from 12-1 pm CT, October 5, 12, 19, and 26, and November 2 and 9.

During the course, Cohen will introduce the use of mindfulness tools such as meditation. “Meditation enables us to pull back and redirect,” she said. “If I want to go to bed at 8:30 or 9 pm and find myself going to bed at 10, what is actually happening at 8:30? We tend to go unconscious in these situations. During this course, we’re trying to bring attention to what is happening with us that leads us to do things that are not what we want for ourselves.”

Debbie CohenYou might want to become more mindful, for instance, about decluttering. Or getting out in nature. Or visiting with friends. Or starting and stopping tasks at the time it makes sense for you to do so. To help facilitate that, Cohen (pictured at left) will introduce another tool known as “compassionate scheduling” during the course. It involves setting timers during the day to help remind you to take some time out for the things that make your life feel more enriched. “Even if it’s just 15 minutes, twice a week,” she said.

As a skilled yoga practitioner, Cohen incorporates yoga and breathing practices into the course. “They help us understand how the body actually feels and what it wants,” she explained. “I’ve learned that playing with breathing practices helps cultivate the state of mind in which we’re interested.”

It’s easier to do all this within the structure of a course, according to Cohen. “When we hear from other people in a class setting, we can see that we’re all struggling with the same issues,” she said. “It’s important to do this with a group to feel its power and to understand there is nothing wrong with you.”

Cohen believes that the course’s practices provide a foundation for good mental health. “If I’m not giving myself some support for having a healthy lifestyle, it’s hard to have good mental health,” she said. “That’s why we do this in a supportive environment in which we’re using specific tools and coaching to help us see everything we can about our life’s daily processes.”

Cost for the course is $120. To register, call (612) 273-9827 or email psychwellness@umn.edu.

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