There are the standard suggestions: yoga, deep breathing, exercise. Maybe you’ve heard of those or tried them, perhaps with less success than you hoped.
Then there are other ways to boost your mental health, methods that are unusual but can help nonetheless.
Here are five examples:
It may be difficult to laugh when in the throes of depression or another mental health disorder, but it is important that you laugh as often as possible. Laugh therapy improves our emotional well-being and our overall mental health.
Every time you smile and laugh, your brain releases dopamine. This chemical produces feelings of happiness and endorphins, our natural painkillers. When we shift from smiling to laughing, the brain’s response includes releasing nitric oxide that boosts the immune system and improves our overall wellness.
Singing does wonders for us. When we sing, the musical vibrations move through the body and alter our emotions. The result is a calming effect that provides energy for later.
Researchers are learning that the act of singing soothes the nerves and lifts our spirits, most likely because singing releases endorphins that are associated with pleasure. Singing also releases oxytocin, which alleviates anxiety and stress.
Oxytocin also boosts feelings of trust and bonding and lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. That’s why singing can be therapeutic in a group and joining a choir is so good for our mental health. The connection with others is similarly a huge mental health benefit.
Dancing improves our mental health, according to Swedish researchers who found that dancing helps reduce depression and anxiety. The positive effects of dance stay with us for up to eight months after we stop dancing.
Another study out of North Dakota found that senior adults who took a 12-week Zumba class reported having improved moods and cognitive skills. Better yet, dancing connects people and makes them more social as they make new friendships and develop relationships at dance classes or social events that involve dancing. You may decide to take a dance class, dance exercise class, or set aside time to play your favorite songs and dance around your home–no matter how you choose to dance, it will boost your mental health.
According to researchers, when we practice gratitude and express what we’re thankful for, we improve our mental well-being. The more people focus on the positives in their lives, the easier it is for them to put negativity aside and approach life with a better attitude and more positive feelings. Similarly, some people have found that writing down the things for which they are grateful, or the good things about their day, and putting the slips of paper in a jar to read during a particularly difficult time has helped boost their mental health.
If you have thought that you feel better when you get out of the house, you may be right. A study by researchers at Stanford University found that walking in nature lowers our risk of depression. People who walk for 90 minutes in a natural area improve their mental health, and people who live in urban areas especially benefit from getting into nature.
You don’t need to go on a strenuous hike to reap the mental health benefits of being in nature, either. Find a walking trail that takes you through the woods or a meadow and enjoy the time outdoors. Or, walk through a park to improve your mood, decrease your anxiety, and improve your memory.
For some people, spending time working on their mental health causes anxiety because they do not spend as much time doing household tasks. If this is the case, you will not get much benefit from these unusual mental health-boosting activities. That’s why you should plan to get some help with daily tasks such as cleaning so that you can focus on improving your mental well-being and rest assured that you will not fall behind in your chores.
Kim Thomas’ mission is aligned with that of US Health Corps, and that is to triumph over chronic disease. She wants to advocate for those suffering from chronic disease and enjoys writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Originally Published on Talkspace.
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