What mental health activities can you undertake to improve your wellbeing?
More people than ever are reporting feelings of sadness, depression, and anxiety. Shaking off these negative feelings so you can approach life with a positive attitude can be challenging, especially in these trying times. Fortunately, there are many different, simple things you can do to make yourself a little bit happier.
THE HAPPINESS LIST
Here is a list of 25 activities anyone can undertake in order to improve their wellbeing.
1. Journaling. Starting and ending the day with a brief journaling habit can do wonders for your mental outlook. Try writing down three things you were grateful for that day followed by three personal wins, even if they were small.
2. Try something new. Step outside your comfort zone a little bit. Write a story. Take up painting. Try out a new recipe. Anything that will flex your creative muscles can have a positive effect on your general wellbeing.
3. Get away. Sure, it’s difficult to travel right now. But going on a camping trip with a few close friends can work wonders on your mental health. Sometimes even just planning a vacation can increase your happiness level.
4. Get outside. Spending time in nature has been shown to increase energy and reduce stress. And it doesn’t take long to reap these benefits — an outing as short as 30 minutes can help your wellbeing.
5. Take in some sun. Exposure to sunlight helps your body synthesize Vitamin D, a nutrient that can elevate your mood. You only need 15 minutes in sunlight for your body to get positive effects. Just don’t forget the sunscreen.
6. Colour inside the lines. Colouring can help clear your mind. And you don’t need much time, as little as 20 minutes will do the trick. You can find hundreds of free colouring pages online. Choose a somewhat complicated geometric design for the best results.
7. Disconnect. Our phones have become constant companions in our lives, our tether to an ongoing stream of bad news, and an enabler to our fear of missing out (FOMO). But seriously, turn off the phone for a day and enjoy the freedom. All those emails, photos, and bad news bits will be there when you turn it back on.
8. Hug your dog. Spending time with pets has been shown to reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, while boosting oxytocin, a substance your body releases that stimulates happiness.
9. Watch animals online. If you don’t have a pet, you can get some of the same mood-elevating effects by watching a funny video of a pet or looking at a cute animal picture.
10. Take a bath. Relaxing in a warm tub can soothe the body and the mind. You can even toss in a handful of Epsom salts to soothe aching muscles and increase magnesium, a nutrient that can be depleted when you’re stressed out.
11. Pump up the jams. Listening to music, especially when one of your favorite songs comes up on the playlist, is a mood-elevating experience.
12. Journaling, part two. If something’s been eating at you, one way to address the conflict is to write down how you feel. Be honest — the paper can take it a lot better than a person.
13. Laugh. It’s been said laughter is the best medicine, and a good laugh has been shown to reduce anxiety. Spend some time with a friend who makes you laugh. Or watch some funny videos online (there are plenty to choose from).
14. Be joyful. Staying positive can be challenging, but it can go a long way to managing positive wellbeing. Soaking up the joy in the little things in your life will keep you on a happier path.
15. Exercise. Physical activity can reduce stress, depression, and overall anxiety. It can also help get better sleep and increase energy levels. Even dancing while you clean your house gives you these positive benefits.
16. Plan your week. Even though many of us are feeling trapped in our houses, it’s still important to build structure into the day. Plan your lunches or your dinners. Plan your weekly wardrobe or anything else that requires you to make a decision. Having these choices already made at the start of each day eases decision fatigue and provides you with a feeling of control.
17. Bring on the omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with lowering depression and schizophrenia. Adding a few servings of this essential nutrient from sources like salmon or flaxseeds to your diet a few times a week can do wonders for your mood. It will even build up your healthy gut bacteria.
18. Spice it up. Hot peppers and other spicy foods can boost the body’s production of serotonin, a hormone that may reduce stress and depression.
19. Eat some chocolate. Dark chocolate is jam-packed with flavonoids, substances that fight off free-radicals and stressors. Plus the caffeine and theobromine in chocolate help boost your brainpower. So eating a few chunks of dark chocolate each week can have a positive impact on your health.
20. Play in the garden. Tending a garden can help calm an anxious mind. It can also increase your attention span and even combat symptoms from ADHD.
21. Read a book. A little bibliotherapy can help reduce your anxiety and increase your wellbeing. Following the story arc of a character you’re fond of can boost your empathy and can even open the door to better interpersonal skills.
22. Spend time with people. Yes, it can be hard to meet up with people these days. But it’s not impossible. Humans need social interaction, and even a short virtual conversation can help improve a person’s mood, outlook, and feelings of belonging.
23. Write a thank-you. Expressing gratitude has been linked to an increase in a person’s happiness. So go ahead and tell someone how and why you appreciate them.
24. Let it go. Holding anger or negative feelings toward another person or thing can be a powerful toxic force. Forgiveness is a key component to improving your mental health and general satisfaction. So just let it go. You’ll feel better.
25. Breathe. Practicing deep breathing increases the flow of oxygen to your brain, stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, granting you a feeling of serenity. It can also train you on how to reduce anxiety during high-stress moments.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When it comes to improving your wellbeing, there are many different approaches. In general, getting physical, going outside, practicing empathy, and doing something you love to do all go a long way to making yourself happy.