St. Catharines, Ontario, has a lot of great opportunities that can help improve people’s mental health and overall well-being. Even visiting nearby Niagara Falls, pictured below and often considered a “wonder” of the world, can help change people’s perspectives on their lives and on the world at large.
As a therapist in St. Catharines, I asked around and gathered some ideas about some of the best activities to do in St. Catharines that can help promote mental health. We’ve tried to keep these simple and free, and we hope they offer some actionable steps for people to take.
Yoga in St. Catharines:
Attend a yoga class at one of the wonderful St. Catharines yoga studios still able to operate in the Niagara Region. Some even offer outdoor classes (weather permitting). Yoga has a wide range of health benefits including physical activity, the focus on breath, acceptance of yourself and your limitations, and feeling a part of a group.
During COVID, if you cannot find a studio that is open or do not feel comfortable attending one; you can also find great yoga instruction online on YouTube. Spend 20-30 minutes doing poses in the comfort of your home (or your yard if it’s nice enough out), you will see more benefits the more you practice.
Spend Time in Nature in St. Catharines:
We are so fortunate to have beautiful natural surroundings here in the Niagara Region. Take 15 or 20 minutes off of work, school, or childcare to go outside and spend time in nature. Whether it is a hike, a picnic, or just standing and watching the birds; enjoying the great outdoors is a wonderful mood lifter and stress reliever.
And with such great restaurants in St. Catharines, ON, you can always opt for bringing a takeout meal to the outdoors for a relaxing and delicious meal.
If you’re close to the falls (in the off-season) you could go even and spend some time looking at one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Spending time in nature has proven physical health benefits as well, including lowering blood pressure and hypertension. Check out our post on the 10 best walking trails in St. Catharines for more ideas on where to go for your nature time.
Make a Connection:
Talk to someone; like a friend or family member (by phone, Zoom, or a distanced walk). Join a group of like-minded individuals and book a call with someone just to chat about your shared interest. Listen to a podcast about an activity you really enjoy but haven’t been able to make time for lately. Humans are essentially social creatures and we crave contact and connections.
Although during COVID we may be suffering from “Zoom fatigue”, it is so important to have meaningful conversations or connections with others (and not about a work or school activity). If you are a stay-at-home parent, try to have a conversation, or make a connection to a group, about an interest outside of your children.
If you are more of an introvert and do not really enjoy conversations, spend some time doing a hobby or activity for which you never seem to find the time (like crafting or making a special meal you have never made before).
The goal of meditation is not to stop thinking or to clear your mind completely; this is a common misconception about meditating. The goal is to learn to accept your thoughts, whatever they may be, with equanimity (mental calmness and composure), and to understand that thoughts, like everything else, are impermanent. Do not pass judgement on your thoughts, just accept them calmly and continue practicing your breath.
Find a nice quiet comfortable spot in your home where you won’t be interrupted while you practice (perhaps during naptime or bedtime if you have children). Sit on a comfortable pillow in a way that feels natural and can be held for 10-15 minutes and try to focus on a nice calm breath. Visualization can help center your thoughts and breathe (i.e. picture a flower opening and closing as you breath in and out; picture a calm river you’re your thoughts floating idly by like bubbles in the stream).
There are many mindfulness apps you can download, some of which are even free. As mentioned above, many of the practices from yoga can be helpful as a base for your mindfulness practice. Mindfulness-integrated cognitive behavioural therapy, as offered by Cameron Counselling, can also help you learn more about how to integrate meditation practice and calm into your daily life.
Read a Book:
Ask a friend or family member for a recommendation on a great book you haven’t read yet (and, even better, ask if they’ll lend it to you). Borrow a book from the library recommended by the staff. Many neighbourhoods have “Tiny Free Libraries”; take an old book and swap it for a new one. Check out a topic that you’ve always been fascinated by but which you’ve never found the time to explore.
Escape daily life by reading a simple and fun murder mystery or get swept away by a romance novel and forget about your own daily life for a half hour.
Pick a new children’s book to read aloud to your kids so you can both explore a new topic or story. Read up on a new or interesting topic that you can later integrate into one of your conversations to help make a connection. Here are some recommendations for books to read that can actually help you make changes:
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