We are (clearly) big fans of counseling. That said, there are lots of other ways to improve your mental wellbeing. Here are some of our team’s favorites.
We know it’s a cliché, but boosting your heart rate can really improve your mood. It doesn’t have to be long or intense – depending on what you’re up for, yoga, a run, or a Zumba class can do the trick. You’ll get out of your head and into your body, plus you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment.
For bonus points, enjoy your gym’s sauna or take a shower afterwards. The feeling of warmth can be very soothing.
Head outdoors and go for a walk. If it’s the middle of the day, and you can sneak in a walk around the block, great! If it’s the weekend, and you can drive out to a nearby lake, even better. Regardless, when you’re outside, focus on the way things look. Pay attention to the ripples in the water, to the breeze filling the flag, to the way the rain beads up on the limbs of the tree, to the smile of the person passing you on the sidewalk. Try to notice one thing you’ve never seen before. Chances are, you’ll forget – at least a little – about your own problems. The world is a beautiful place, and sometimes the most beautiful parts are the most unexpected ones.
Meditation is an incredibly effective way to deal with difficult emotions and thoughts. It can be a little intimidating to start – how do you know if you’re doing it right, or if you’re even doing anything at all? – but there are some great resources out there to make it easier. We love Headspace, a guided meditation app that’s very straightforward and easy to use. For more Buddhist-oriented meditation, Tara Brach has a large number of guided meditations posted on her site. Finally, Insight Timer is a free app with guided meditations of all lengths and styles. Meditation helps us find peace and calm without compartmentalizing or ignoring difficult emotions. We highly recommend giving it a try.
Cooking and Eating
Cooking your own food is a way of caring for yourself. The process of chopping and stirring can be very calming, and you get to eat the result! Whether you make brownies from a mix or chicken soup from scratch, block off an evening and take your time. Set the table, light a candle, and turn on your favorite music. Make sure to enjoy the tastes, the textures, and the smell of the food you’re eating.
If at all possible, try cooking or sharing a meal with friends. Long, leisurely meals are even better at home than at restaurants, and sharing the same food is a great way of bonding with others.
If this all sounds too hard, try making a cup of tea. Pour it into your favorite mug, grab a blanket, and sit on the couch. Focus on the smell of the tea, the way the steam curls up out of the cup, and enjoy the taste. Enjoy the feeling of being warmed up from the inside.
Sometimes you’re overwhelmed by your thoughts, but don’t want to talk to anybody else. In these moments, try turning to a journal. Writing your thoughts down on paper can help you process them. Your brain will slow down so your pen can keep up. Turning your thoughts into sentences will give them some structure, making them easier to deal with. Sometimes you’ll even stumble on to new connections or causes.
Reddit has a huge collection of mental wellness-related forums, or “subreddits.” From help with coping, to depression, to anxiety, Reddit has it all. The forums are filled with people who are dealing with similar issues. They can be a wonderful place to get your difficulties off of your chest, and get words of wisdom or comfort from others. Additionally, a sure-fire way to feel better is to help others – try replying to someone else’s post with an encouraging message.
This can be a great resource for those times when you can’t or don’t want to talk to a friend, or you don’t have the energy to leave the house.
Our team loves to read, and there are some wonderful books out there about mental health and wellbeing. Some of our favorites include Wherever You Go, There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn; Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach; and A Mindful Evening and A Mindful Morning by David Dillard-Wright.
That said, sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than curling up with a childhood favorite. Try reading a book you loved in elementary school or middle school. Young adult and children’s books often have enough magic and mystery to pull you out of your world for an hour or two.