Are you looking to improve your mental health, but don’t know where to start? Look no further! Turns out, simple activities may be all you need to give your brain a little head start. Best of all, you can take as little as thirty minutes a day to reap the rewards.
The little things 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 you, for better or for worse. Here’s how experts reveal 6 meaningful activities that improve your mental health.
1. Write in a journal
The act of recording everyday experiences, thoughts, and feelings is incredibly therapeutic and, for many, is the cause of a significant increase in mental health. According to the Talkspace medical director, psychiatrist Dr. Neil LeibowitzEven writing something down and then throwing it away can help you manage your emotions and anxieties.
When you write in a private journal, you can express your thoughts without worrying about being judged. You can let your pen carry all your emotions and anxieties, including those that you know are irrational or only temporary and will no longer affect you later. Anything you think about can be written without harming those around you, and you can review your writing later and reflect on your mistakes, feelings, and reality.
- Reduce depression scores among people diagnosed with major depressive disorder, based on research
- Be similar in effectiveness to positive therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Increase positive thinking reducing depressive symptoms like rumination
- Reduce the severity of stress and anxiety symptoms, depending on studies
- Help 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, although there are many different resistance tools.
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 problems and potentiates positive thinking. Here are some of the mental health benefits of this activity!
People with mild cognitive impairment find that strength training can help improve their cognitive ability. So imagine what it can do for you!
Reduction of anxiety
Excessive worry, restlessness, and similar symptoms are common with anxiety and physical symptoms like muscle tremors. Strength training can help reduce the severity of these symptoms.
· Self esteem
Those who do strength training are more likely to have a slightly more positive self-perception. Exercising can be beneficial to the body, allowing people to feel more confident as a result.
While strength training cannot cure depression, it can certainly help reduce your overall symptoms. Regular exercise allows you to regulate your mood, especially in those with normally mild to moderate symptoms.
Few people realize the great impact gardening has on health. According to Morin, it’s a wonderful way to exercise, get fresh air and sunlight, and improve your home. However, more importantly, it is great for mental health. Here are some studies showing the benefits of this activity:
- “A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence from a National Study” published in the American Journal of Public Health (2004). This research showed that being in 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 can essentially help your mental health.
- “Parks and Other Green Environments: Essential Components of a Healthy Human Habitat” published by the National Association of Parks and Recreation (2010). This collection of different findings revealed many fascinating aspects of the effect of nature on mental health. One of them was that 79% of hospital patients experience calmer positive thinking and feel higher levels of relaxation after being in a garden.
- “Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective stress restoration”, published in the Journal of Health Psychology (2011). This randomized controlled trial study revealed that gardening is an incredibly effective habit for fighting stress, even reducing levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the participants’ blood.
People talk about the benefits of yoga so often now that it may seem like a cliché to recommend it for mental health, but the simple fact is that it works, and it works well! Registered dietitian Rachael Link lists the following science-backed ways yoga can improve your mental health:
Anxiety is the most commonly diagnosed disorder in the country and yoga can help tremendously with that. Those who practice yoga are more likely to experience positive thinking and they tend to have lower levels of anxiety.
Decrease in stress levels
Studies have shown how effective yoga can be when it comes to stress. It helps reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and in just a few months, the results can be quite spectacular!
Reduction of symptoms of depression
A lot of research It has been shown that the practice of yoga can help control depressive symptoms. This is even more effective when used in conjunction with more conventional treatment methods as a complementary treatment.
Reduction of PTSD symptoms
Post-traumatic stress disorder is difficult to manage. Studies have found that it can be an effective secondary treatment method for the disorder when used in conjunction with other treatments. In fact, it can cause more than half of people with the disorder to recover to the point where they no longer meet the criteria for PTSD.
Reading is an extremely beneficial and enriching activity for the mind. Whether you prefer fiction, nonfiction, or something else entirely, there is always a benefit to reading. Here are some of the science-backed benefits that mental health can be improved simply by being a bit of a bibliophile.
You are less stressed
Reading for just half an hour has been found positive Effects on physical health, including reduced heart rate and low blood pressure. This translates to mental health by making you less stressed overall. When you read, you decrease 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 spend endless time reading either!
You are more empathetic
Reading fiction, specifically literary fiction, has been shown to improve empathy among readers in research. This is likely because the act of reading introduces you to the inner lives of fictional characters, making you understand and see through their perspectives, even when you are not interacting with them. In turn, this allows you to better understand the emotions, beliefs, and thoughts of others. Experts refer to this concept as the “theory of mind,” which involves the natural ability of human beings to maintain, build, navigate and understand social relationships.
Your brain becomes stronger
When you read, a large number of complex signals are sent through the circuitry of your brain. The more you read, the more complex those signals become, creating a sophisticated web in your head. Research has discovered, through functional MRIs, that reading a novel illuminates so many different parts of the brain. Essentially, when you read, your brain becomes 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 mental engagement as you age. For the most part, the research on the benefits of reading in preventing cognitive diseases is still recent. Still some research has indicated that older people who read daily have better cognitive function. It is also believed that the earlier you start reading on a daily basis, the better it will be for your brain.
6. Take a break
Some people despise breaks and find regular breaks lazy or unproductive. This is a completely unfair and false statement. Science has revealed time and again that breaks are good for you and are often better at achieving goals than no breaks at all.
Breaks can be meaningful simply because they mean that you are taking time for yourself. According to psychology writer Meg Selig, who is also the author of books related to habits for success and other similar topics, here are some reasons why taking breaks can be beneficial for your mental health:
Rest allows the brain to function
It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s actually completely true! Rest is known to allow the brain to function, and not actively engaging your mind doesn’t mean it’s idle and unused. In fact, it’s the opposite! The brain is most creative when it wanders, and breaks allow it to process recently acquired information. The more you rest your mind, the easier it will be to learn new things. studies!
You get renewed motivation
Everyone needs to take a break sometimes, as the brain’s prefrontal cortex can work too hard. When you focus too much and too obsessively on 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 shown that actively disabling and reactivate goals is a conducive way to ensure renewed and focused motivation with positive thinking.
Don’t get fatigued with decisions
Every day is full of decisions to be made. For people who have many choices to make, this can lead to something known as decision fatigue. This refers to the appearance of a decrease in 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 prisoners parole when they hadn’t had a break in a while, as their minds naturally gravitated towards the easier answer: “no.” Basically, you need breaks if you want to make rational, non-impulsive, and effective decisions.
You can do countless activities to help your mental health, and these six are scientifically guaranteed. After a while of practicing these activities regularly, you will see not only how meaningful they can be, but also how much they can help you.