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14 Unexpected Ways to Boost Your Mental Health Now

Practicing good mental health doesn’t always mean a lengthy list of “shoulds” and “should nots.” You can boost your mental health right now through activities you want to do.

Here are 14 research-backed ways to boost mental health (for adults or kids) that may surprise you:

  1. Get your hands dirty. Whether that means getting out the kinetic sand, water beads, play dough, or a gardening trowel, working with our hands stimulates the senses and helps regulate emotions. It pulls us outside of ourselves by engaging different types of sensations.
  1. Play hide and seek: Adults and kids alike can benefit from letting out their spontaneous, silly selves (something adults often neglect!). When we’re having fun, our brains release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us encourage ourselves and can improve memory, creativity, and mental flexibility. If hide and seek isn’t your game, try the Floor is Lava, jumping on the bed, Sardines, riding a bike, or coloring. (Play also is one of our favorite strategies to help kids learn life skills!) 
  1. Sing out loud (and maybe dance, too): Singing has been shown to decrease stress, boost health, enhance memory, improve mood, and — if you’re singing with others — build feelings of connection. So look up your favorite song and belt it out!
  1. Soak your feet in bubbles: You might not have time for a bubble bath, but a foot soak may seem realistic. Studies have shown foot baths to reduce stress, improve sleep, and help the body relax. 
  1. Go bird (or squirrel) watching: Have you ever taken a fussy baby outside and had her calm down immediately? Nature is magical that way. Combine it with the mindfulness of closely watching birds, squirrels, clouds, leaves, butterflies — whatever captures your fancy — and you’ll feel your mood lift.
  1. Clean (yes, you read that correctly): This is about small victories. Clutter or mess can increase anxiety, and while an all-house deep clean may be unrealistic, taking time to clean one small area — a reading nook, a bathroom, a toy corner, an untidy drawer — can give you a feeling of accomplishment and lift the spirits.
  1. Hug a furry friend: Interacting with pets may decrease stress, lower blood pressure, improve mood, and help children develop emotional and social skills. If you don’t own a pet, hug a friend’s pet (and the friend, while you’re at it) or visit a pet café.
  1. Talk to yourself: Out loud or on paper (and don’t forget that talking to loved ones or therapists can be very helpful, too). Expressing thoughts outside of our minds helps us to process them, regulate our emotions, and reduce anxiety, among other benefits. 
  2. Cook: Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits (or pastas) of your labor — small, creative projects such as cooking or baking have been shown to boost happiness and relaxation in everyday life.
  1. Do a puzzle: Completing a puzzle can help reduce stress and improve cognitive function, among other benefits.
  1. Pick up a hobby, old or new. Hobbies have been linked to feelings of happiness and well-being. Maybe that means digging out some yard games or a crochet hook, or maybe it means heading to the store to find something new that strikes your fancy. But the benefits are numerous.
  1. Find something comforting to hold: In a moment when anxiety strikes, items such as stress balls, pocket-sized keepsakes, weighty rocks, or ergonomic wooden carvings can help ground a person.
  1. Seek out a sure-fire laugh. Laughter truly is fantastic medicine. Watch a hilarious skit or your favorite funny movie, if you have time. Even a silly gif will do. Better yet, phone a friend who always makes you laugh.
  1. Get creative. You may have noticed that this has been a common theme. This category is all about your favorite method of creative expression  — whether coloring or coding, photography or prose. Don’t worry about whether it’s good. Just know that letting your creativity flow can boost both mental and physical health.

Have fun playfully boosting your spirits! We wish you and your loved ones health, help, and hope. 

Related: 5 life-changing habits to transform your mental health

Prithvi Singh

Seasoned Technical Product Manager, focusing on product strategy, roadmap development, and data-driven decision-making. Hands-on experience in implementing and optimizing machine learning algorithms in various projects