Are you seeking to boost your mental health, but you don’t know where to start? Look no further! As it turns out, simple activities can be all you need to give your brain a little edge. Best yet, you can spend as little as thirty minutes daily to reap the rewards.
Small things that you do can have a surprisingly significant impact on your overall psychological state. That’s why it’s important to understand how different things can affect it, for better or worse. Here’s how experts reveal 6 meaningful activities that boost your mental health.
1. Writing In A Journal
The act of writing down everyday experiences, thoughts, and feelings is incredibly therapeutic, and for many, it’s the cause for significant increases in mental health. According to Talkspace’s Chief Medical Officer, psychiatrist Dr. Neil Leibowitz, even just writing something and then throwing it away can help you manage your emotions and anxieties.
When you write in a private journal, you’re able to express everything you’re thinking about without worrying about being judged. You can let your pen carry all your emotions and anxieties, including ones you know are irrational or only temporary and will no longer affect you later. Whatever you think can be written without harming those around you, and you can look back over your writing later and reflect on your mistakes, feelings, and reality.
- Reduce depression scores among individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder, according to research
- Be similar in effectiveness to positive therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Increase positive thinking by reducing depressive symptoms such as rumination
- Reduce the severity of stress and anxiety symptoms, according to studies
- Aid in positive recovery after traumatic, stressful, or difficult life events
2. Strength Training
Strength training is a form of exercise that involves building muscle and improving endurance and strength. It is also often called resistance training and usually uses weights, though many different resistance tools exist.
Psychotherapist, mental strength coach, and licensed clinical social worker Amy Morin state that strength training can be used as an intervention for many mental health issues and boost positive thinking. Here are some of the mental health benefits of this activity!
· Cognitive Function
Individuals with mild cognitive impairment find that strength training can help improve their cognitive ability. Imagine, then, what it can do for you!
· Anxiety Reduction
Excessive worry, restlessness, and similar symptoms are common with anxiety and physical symptoms like muscle tremors. Strength training can help to reduce the severity of these symptoms.
Those who perform strength training are more likely to have a slightly more positive self-perception. Working out can be beneficial to the body, allowing people to feel more confident as a result.
While strength training can’t cure depression, it can certainly help to reduce its overall symptoms. Regular exercise allows for mood regulation, especially on those with mild-to-moderate symptoms normally.
Few people realize just how great the impact of gardening is on health. According to Morin, it’s a wonderful way to exercise, get fresh air and sunlight exposure, and improve your home. More importantly, though, it’s great for your mental health. Here are some studies that show the benefits of this activity:
- “A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study” published in American Journal of Public Health (2004). This research showed that being among nature could reduce ADHD symptoms, allowing for better focus and concentration. If you are a neurodivergent individual with this or a similar disorder, being in a garden may essentially help your mental health.
- “Parks and Other Green Environments: Essential Components of a Healthy Human Habitat” published by the National Recreation and Park Association (2010). This collection of different findings revealed many fascinating aspects of nature’s effect on mental health. One of them was that 79% of hospital patients experience calmer positive thinking and feel higher relaxation levels after being in a garden.
- “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress,” published in Journal of Health Psychology (2011). This randomized controlled trial study revealed that gardening is an incredibly effective stress-fighting habit, even reducing cortisol levels, the stress hormone, in the blood of the participants.
People talk about yoga’s benefits so often now that it can seem cliche to recommend it for mental health, but the simple fact is that it works, and it works well! Registered dietician Rachael Link lists the following science-backed ways that yoga can boost your mental health:
Anxiety is the country’s most commonly diagnosed disorder, and yoga can help with that tremendously. Those who practice yoga are more likely to experience positive thinking and tend to have lower anxiety levels.
· Decreased Stress Levels
Studies have shown just how effective yoga can be when it comes to stress. It helps to reduce cortisol levels, the stress hormone, and in the span of just a few months, the results can be quite dramatic!
· Reduced Depression Symptoms
A lot of research has shown that practicing yoga may aid in the management of depressive symptoms. This is even more effective when used alongside more mainstream treatment methods as a supplementary treatment.
· Reduced PTSD Symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder is challenging to manage. Studies have found that it may be an effective method of side-treatment for the disorder when used alongside other treatments. In fact, it can cause more than half of those with the disorder to recover to the point of no longer fitting PTSD criteria.
Reading is an extremely beneficial activity that is enriching for the mind. Whether you prefer fiction, non-fiction, or something else entirely, there is always a benefit to reading. Here are some of the science-backed benefits that indicate mental health can be boosted by the simple act of being a bit of a bibliophile!
· You’re Less Stressed Out
Reading for just half an hour has been found to have positive effects on physical health, including reduced heart rate and lowered blood pressure. This translates to mental health by making you less stressed out overall. When you read, you lessen feelings and experiences of psychological distress. The same study that found this also revealed that reading is just as effective as humor and even yoga. The thirty-minute period for effectiveness means you don’t have to dedicate endless time to reading, either!
· You’re More Empathic
Reading fiction, specifically literary fiction, has been shown to improve empathy among readers in research. This is likely because the act of reading puts you into the inner lives of fictional characters, bringing you to understand and see through their perspectives, even when you don’t relate to them. In turn, this allows you to understand better the emotions, beliefs, and thoughts of others. Experts refer to this concept as the “theory of mind,” which involves human beings’ natural ability to maintain, build, navigate, and comprehend social relationships.
· Your Brain Gets Stronger
When you read, a large number of complex signals get sent through your brain’s circuitry. The more you read, the more complex those signals get, creating a sophisticated network in your head. Research has found, through functional MRI scans, that reading a novel lights up so many different parts of the brain. Essentially, when you read, your brain grows stronger and stronger over time, and the more you read, the better and more powerful your brain becomes.
· You Are Less Susceptible To Cognitive Decline
According to the National Institute on Aging, reading is a good way to aid in mental engagement as you get older. For the most part, research into the benefits of reading in cognitive disease prevention is still young. Still, some research has indicated that senior citizens who read daily have a better cognitive function. It is also believed that the earlier you begin reading daily, the better it will be for your brain.
6. Take A Break
Some people look down on breaks, viewing regular rests as lazy or unproductive. This is a completely unfair and untrue statement. Science has revealed time and time again that breaks are good for you and are often better for accomplishing goals than not taking any breaks.
Breaks can be meaningful simply because they mean that you’re taking time for yourself. According to psychology writer Meg Selig, who is also an author on books related to habits for success and other similar topics, here are some reasons taking breaks can be beneficial to your mental health:
· Resting Lets The Brain Work
It sounds contradictory, but it’s actually completely true! Resting is known to allow the brain to function, and not actively engaging your mind doesn’t mean it is resting idle and unused. In fact, it’s quite the contrary! The brain is more creative when it gets to wander, and taking breaks allows it to process recently acquired information. The more you rest your mind, the easier it is for you to learn new things, say studies!
· You Get Renewed Motivation
Everyone needs to take a break sometimes, as the brain’s prefrontal cortex can get overworked. When you focus too much and too obsessively over an effort, the sustained attention required for something challenging can deplete your brainpower over time. When you take breaks, you let your brain rest, renewing its motivation. Studies have actually shown that actively deactivating and reactivating goals is a conducive way to ensure renewed and focused motivation with positive thinking.
· You Don’t Get Fatigued From Decisions
Every day is filled with decisions that need to be made. For people who have many choices to make, this can lead to something known as decision fatigue. This refers to the occurrence of the dampening of reasoning ability and willpower as a result of tiredness. A famous study showed that judges who had to make a lot of decisions were less likely to grant parole to prisoners when they hadn’t had a break in a while, as their minds naturally gravitated towards the easiest answer: “no.” Basically, you need breaks if you want to make rational, non-impulsive, effective decisions!
You can perform countless activities to aid your mental health, and these six are scientifically guaranteed. After a little while of regularly practicing these activities, you’ll see not just how meaningful they can be but also how much they can aid you!