I love May. The world is coming back to life and the weather is finally starting to stay nice. Do you know who else loves May? The bees of course. They finally have a sufficient supply of nectar and pollen and now the real honey production can begin. Much like my favorite pollinator, I was stuck inside a box all winter, too. I don’t just mean my house, I mean the box of seasonal depression. The dark box you can’t seem to quite crawl out of.
Like bees, I don’t do well in the winter. There isn’t enough sunlight and I can’t spend as much time outside as I would like. I’ve been working for the bees for almost two years now, and as I look back on that time, I realized that there is a lot they have done for me. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I wanted to take the time to call attention to how bees have helped me get out of my box and improve my mental health.
To begin, working with bees has been proven to do wonders for your mental health. Last summer we featured a Louisville teen who used beekeeping to help his depression. Through our research, we found that bees have a major impact on veterans, also. The Manchester Veteran Affairs Medical Center uses ‘bee therapy’ to help soldiers adjust to civilian life.
Why does beekeeping help with mental health? It has a lot to do with staying calm while you work with your bees. Your bees can sense your fear and anxiety, so you need to stay calm while you’re working in the hive. The steading breathing in and out is a natural way of relaxing and making small, purposeful movements helps to improve your focus. Some veterans even say just listening to the buzz of the bees helps to ease their minds. For me, however, the best thing it does is get me outside.
Before COVID, I was working two jobs. One behind a desk staring at a screen all day and the other bartending inside of a dingy bar all night. I was getting very little time outside and it was starting to wear on me. I was much more irritable, exhausted, and depressed. When COVID hit, however, a lot changed. The office and the bar shut down and we all had to stay home to stay safe. Luckily, it was the beginning of spring when this all happened and the weather was only getting better.
Instead of driving to the office or the bar, the only place I was able to go was outside. Each day, during my lunch break or in the evening I took my dog for a walk on the nature trails by my house. At first, the days were chilly and dreary, but the more walks we went on the more uplifting each one became. On each walk, I kept track of the number of animals I would see. Birds, deer, chipmunks, and bees. Once May hit and the spring blossoms opened up, I began to see bees everywhere! I began to nickname these walks my “bee walks.”
As the warm months continued, I found myself outside more and more. Biking, hiking, and kayaking. I was always on the hunt for more pollinator time. Each time I saw a bee or a butterfly I swear it gave me the biggest serotonin boost. The buzz of those little creatures working diligently to keep the world fresh and alive gave me some sense of hope that I had lost. I often felt so consumed with my jobs that I never really allowed myself to do the little things that made me happy and set my mind right. But, following these little bees outside changed my perspective. I needed to make my mental health a priority.
Before COVID, I traveled often. I stayed in hotels and Airbnbs and mostly hung out in cities. But, because of COVID and my desire to find more pollinators, I found myself turning to more outdoor traveling like backpacking and camping. Now, I live an almost brand new lifestyle. Is my depression cured? Of course not, but getting out to explore how bees live in different parts of the country has made it a lot better.
Two years ago, none of us would have predicted how the events of COVID would change our lives. We have all had to deal with our bouts of depression and anxiety during the last year. Some of us found new hobbies and new lifestyles that we enjoy. For me, it’s being outside as much as possible looking for the bees. If it wasn’t for these little pollinators I never would have met some of the amazing people at The Turtle Hospital, or gotten so excited by the bees in Glacier National Park. I never would have found the Savannah Bee Company or bought my favorite bee hat. I’ve gotten more compliments on this hat than any other, I swear.
The point is, when it comes to your mental health, don’t put it on the back burner. Find the little things, like bees, that help make your day, and continue to nurture that. My love for bees has taken me across the country now, so just imagine what taking care of your mental health can do for you.