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Mental Health Tips from the Pros 

Low-cost hacks for improving mood and well-being—no matter your therapy budget

Finding a coven of wellness practitioners is key to making it through trying times (need I say the word… COVID). But if signing up for therapy (or finding a therapist) is beyond your scope, these are some health tips that are helping myself and my she-wolf pack make it through the wilderness of winter seasonal affective disorder, political upheaval and beyond.

Growing tropical plants can do wonders for humans. - K.M. COLLINS
  • K.M. Collins
  • Growing tropical plants can do wonders for humans.

Chill out with a cold plunge

Locally based, nationally renowned chef, nutritionist and founder of Pure Joy Planet, Elaina Love swears by the cold plunge as a daily practice. Dipping for a few minutes reduces swelling, increases blood flow and releases endorphins, she says. Her signature DIY set up is a backyard metal bath (a would-be trough) that you can find at Wilco or any feed supplier. At first look, this practice might seem counter intuitive, but as motivational speaker Tony Robbins assures, it delivers. In a Business Insider article, he touted the cold plunge’s praises saying it, “Wakes your ass up,” and “trains the mind to not hesitate but to act.”

In a review published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, researchers found that “hydrotherapy was widely used to improve immunity and for the management of pain,” along with a host of other ailments.

Cultivate and care for plants 

Cultural anthropologist and world traveler Amy Williams loves her harem of tropical plants. With over 20 distinct root systems, there is no length she won’t go to for their comfort, including turning up the heat, humidifiers, grow lights and more. Williams carefully assesses each plant daily and looks for ways to increase their comfort. If you aren’t in a position to get a pet (lease regulations, etc.) and you’re wanting to pour your love and affection into living beings, try building out a flora zoo of kept plants. For small-space or indoor, edible ideas, check out Abbie Cadabby on Facebook. For something simple, look into cultivating sprouts in a cupboard in a spare mason jar! Total magic. 

Daily doubles: Fit in exercise

Like many, mother of two, community leader, Bend-based mental health therapist and The Hive venue owner Shanti O’Connor needs body movement every day—multiple times a day. Making it to the gym is great, but if that can’t happen, she gets inventive about carving out time multiple times a day to get exercise, with her 10- and 6-year-olds in tow. Night hikes with other families, mountain bike rides, sledding, dog walks, roller skating at the park, cross-country ski excursions with gal pals—you name it and she’s doing it.

“When exercising, the bilateral movement (engaging left and right sides of the brain) helps me process emotions, clears my thoughts, promotes a positive mood, brings more coherence to my nervous system and inspires new insights into my life,” explains O’Connor. 

Warm up with some bone broth

If you haven’t made bone broth from scratch in the comfort of your own kitchen with your favorite cauldron, you’re missing out! Can you think of anything more nurturing on a cold winter night than stirring a pot of savory smelling goodness while a fire blazes in the wood stove? For Sara Beth Feley, local mental health therapist, she prefers stock rendered from beef. Feley chooses to source her bones and cuts from Oregon farms. “Field’s Grass Fed Beef is wonderful,” she said. “They come to town monthly and you can order specific cuts for a very reasonable price. And if you need immediate local meat, Locavore is awesome.” Recipes are endless with a basic scaffolding of salt, pepper and bay leaves. 

Make music, learn to play

Longtime local Ashtanga yoga mastress, nordic ski instructor, massage therapist and concert violinist Julie Southwell said this winter has been all about making music. As a music teacher, she encourages Bendites to take up a new instrument this winter. As your brain ages it will be in better shape if you’ve taken music lessons, according to an article in National Geographic. Not only does it grow your brain, it improves your ability to discern sounds. It’s sort of like exercise, but it improves your mental endurance from the comfort of your own home. For a music lesson or body work, find her at violinjulie@gmail.com.

Southwell also encourages learning Ashtanga yoga, delving into the eight limbs of yoga


About The Author

K.M. Collins

A native Oregonian, K.M. Collins is a geologist-gone-writer. Covering everything outdoors and a spectrum of journalism, she's a jack of all whitewater sports and her favorite beat is anything river related. Don't blow her cover as a freshwater mermaid amongst humans.
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