12 Totally Free Ways To Improve Your Mental Health
We all feel a little crazy sometimes (for me, “sometimes” means at least three times a day), and while we’re big proponents of therapy and other structured forms of mental health support here at The Frisky, there are times when limited funds or busy schedules make it tough to get professional help. In honor of How To Deal Week, I thought I’d round up some of my favorite simple, effective, and — best of all — totally free ways to feel better when the going gets rough. Check ‘em out after the jump, and please feel free to add your own tips and techniques in the comments!
1. Keep a journal. There is something very powerful about getting your thoughts out of your head and onto a piece of paper. If you haven’t done much journaling before, I’d suggest doing a 10-minute free write (just write down anything and everything that comes to your mind–don’t worry about punctuation, grammar, or forming cohesive thoughts) and seeing how you feel afterward. Even if you’re not a big fan of writing, this simple technique can be a hugely effective release when you feel as though your thoughts are spiraling out of control.
2. Try meditating. I am such a perfectionist that I tend to give up on meditating if I can’t reach a state of total Zen tranquility within five minutes of sitting criss-cross applesauce on my bedroom floor, so I understand if meditation doesn’t appeal to you, but here’s the thing: there’s no right or wrong way to meditate. There is no such thing as a failed meditation. Simply taking the time to be still, clear your mind, and focus on your breathing is immensely beneficial to your mental health.
3. Drop a toxic friend. The people we choose to spend time with both affect and reflect who we are. Hanging out with passionate, motivated, positive people will inevitably make you more passionate, motivated, and positive. Hanging out with negative, petty, woe-is-me types will inevitably make you more negative, petty, and sad. Which would you rather be? Life’s too short to hang out with people who make us feel and act like the worst versions of ourselves. Drop those “friends” ASAP–here’s how.
4. Get creative. Here are two things I know to be true: creativity comes in all different forms, and everyone needs a creative outlet. Yours might be painting, cooking, translating 19th century Russian novels, arranging flowers, or taking apart and rebuilding computers. Whatever it is, make time for it, because when you neglect your creativity, that’s when you start to feel empty and unfulfilled.
5. Talk it out. Never, ever underestimate the power of venting to a good friend or family member. If you have a hard time opening up to your loved ones, just think of all the times you’ve helped them through tough times in their lives. Most people would be more than happy to return the favor and lend you an ear. And trust me–it really does help.
6. Practice gratitude. Here’s a little story for you: someone I know–we’ll call him “my boyfriend”–found himself in a bit of a funk earlier this year. Things weren’t going well at work, he wasn’t a big fan of our new neighborhood, and after too many bad days in a row, he had developed a habit of focusing on the negative instead of the positive. I remembered one of my counselors telling me that keeping a gratitude journal can alter your whole paradigm, so I asked my boyfriend to try it with me. We bought two little notebooks and took a couple minutes each night before bed writing out five things we were thankful for that day–anything from the weather to a good conversation to a particularly amazing marinara sauce–and you know what? It really helped. Going to sleep with positive, thankful thoughts in your head means waking up happier and hopeful. Within a week or so my boyfriend had climbed his way out of his funk, and he’d be the first to tell you how grateful he is for, well, gratitude.
7. Find a type of exercise you like. I always kind of resent this advice because when I’m feeling emotionally unstable, the last thing I want to do is put on spandex and go to the gym. That being said, moving your body in whatever way feels right to you is a really important part of the healthy, happy life equation, and it’s a great way to clear your head. Take a 10-minute walk around the block. Head to the driving range and smash some golf balls into the stratosphere. Rediscover the joys of riding your bike. Have a dance party in your living room.
8. Have more orgasms. Bonus: this totally counts as exercise too.
9. Change up your routine. I don’t know about you guys, but one thing that never fails to put me in an emotional funk is when my life starts to feel stagnant. I hate feeling stuck, and when things haven’t changed in a while, it’s easy to feel like they never will. If you’re struggling with stagnancy, try making small changes to your daily routine: eat something new for breakfast, take a different route home, read a book instead of watching TV, etc. These little things will add some much needed variety and stimulation to your life, and who knows, they might lead to some really big changes too.
10. Read all about it. Self-help books get a bad rap, but there are some great ones out there that really can help you get through a rough situation, navigate a toxic relationship, or just better understand yourself (stay tuned for a full list of recommendations later this week!). Take a trip to the library and browse the titles to see what speaks to you.
11. Learn to say “no.” Sometimes the very best thing we can do for ourselves–especially when we’re feeling overwhelmed by obligations, expectations, and responsibility, is, to borrow a phrase from Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.” Politely turn down a few social events, volunteer requests, and extra assignments at work and give yourself permission to slow down, relax, and just breathe.
12. Schedule some alone time. Once you’ve got that whole “saying no” thing down (I’m still working on it, myself), take it to the next level and set aside some of that precious free time just for you. Because as helpful as it is to talk things out with your friends and spend time with positive people, if you want to get right with yourself, you must spend some time getting to know–and taking care of–yourself.