9 Unexpected Things That Are Good For Your Mental Health
There are so many conventional ways to improve your mental health, such as eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and seeing a therapist — among other important things. But it never hurts to add in a few habits that are "outside the box," as a way to take your mental health in an even more positive direction.
"If we are only doing the same things we usually do, with the same point of view, it’s harder to emerge out of depression or release anxiety," therapist Rev. Connie L. Habash MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Sometimes, the best thing to create positive shifts in our mood is to get out of our ingrained habits and try new things."
That's not to say you should stop what you're already doing, especially if it's working, or if it's part of a plan designed by your therapist. But you might want to consider adding to your overall mental health routine, in a few small ways. This might include trying new foods, getting dirty, or doing something unconventional, such as jumping on your bed.
"These kind of practices help us step out of the mold, have new experiences, and change our mindset," Habash says. Anything that's fun, new, or even slightly uncomfortable, like the things listed below, can be a great supplement to your daily life. And experts say it can even be good for your mental health.
1. Jump On The Bed
"Many of us have lost connection with the playful part of ourselves," Habash says. "We all have an inner child that wants to be silly and spontaneous." So ask yourself, when was the last time you jumped on the bed?
In some small way, doing fun things like this can help break you out of your usual routine, since you'll be shaking off your stressful adult life for a while. You can also try riding a bike, playing a game in the park, drawing — the list is endless.
"This is how we access joy," Habash says. "It’s almost certain to lift your mood."
2. Give Your Bathroom A Thorough Scrub
When you're feeling anxious or stressed, sometimes nothing's more relaxing than getting down on your hands and knees, and scrubbing around the toilet.
"The bathroom is a small and contained space, so it's not an overwhelming room to clean and the benefits are amazing," therapist Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle. "Yes, it's gross to clean toilets sometimes and yes, you will be amazed at the grime that comes off of the bottom of your sink or the shelves in your bathroom, but the feeling of completing it and the feeling of seeing a clean bathroom will help with your mental health and your mood."
3. Apply A Mud Mask
If you have a go-to skincare routine, it may be beneficial to try something new — and possibly even add in some mud — in order to reap a few benefits.
"Applying a mud treatment on your skin certainly improves your mental health," licensed psychotherapist Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, tells Bustle. "It relieves muscle and joint aches and pains, helps [...] improve circulation, relaxes you, and relieves stress."
Applying a mud mask at home can be super relaxing, as can simply soaking in a hot bath — especially if you've been feeling sore, stressed, or depressed. As Mendoza says, "When your body is operating efficiently you feel good and your mood is enhanced." And taking time for self-care doesn't hurt, either.
4. Eat Something New
Everyone's different when it comes to how they feel about trying new foods. "The texture of some foods can be off- putting," Mendoza says, "but [many are] packed with amazing benefits."
Take mussels and oysters, for example. "Mussels contain a high level of vitamin B-12, which has been found to positively affect mood and other brain functions," she says. "Oysters are high in zinc, a nutrient that helps ease anxiety and also improve sleep the quality of your sleep."
But even the act of trying a new food, whether it has a weird texture or not, can be beneficial. "Waking up our taste buds to foods we don't normally eat can be invigorating to our senses and help us out of [a rut]," therapist Shannon Thomas, LCSW, tells Bustle.
5. Sing In Public
If the idea of singing in public terrifies you, then it may be exactly what you need to do. "It may sound counterintuitive, but singing in public is one way for people who struggle with social anxiety to work on feeling more relaxed around others," Matt Smith, licensed therapist at Modern Era Counseling, tells Bustle. "This is basically a form of exposure therapy, so the more embarrassing the song the better."
You can start off by humming, just to get a feel for it. Then work up to bigger songs as your confidence grows. "Singing in public forces you to confront your specific fear — others judging you, public humiliation, etc. — and in the process retrains your brain to stop firing up its built-in fear response in the absence of actual danger," Smith says. Over time, you might even start to think it's fun.
6. Hold A Big Rock
While it might sound strange, holding something natural in your hands — like a rock — can be quite relaxing. "When you’re feeling anxious, agitated, like you’re spinning around and overloaded with stress, you probably need to get grounded," Habash says. "A great way to do this is to find a large river rock, or any kind of sizable stone."
Maybe you pick one up on a hike, or find one in the local park. "Hold it in your hands or lap, and feel its weight," she says. "Let all the stresses and agitation be pulled down into the earth and release them. You, as the solid and steady rock, remain more calm and peaceful."
7. Scream Into A Pillow
If you've been bottling up your emotions, there's a good chance you'll find it quite therapeutic to scream into a pillow.
"Being able to express that pent up emotion is important in working through it," Jovica Grey, licensed mental health counselor and founder of Grey’s Counseling Services, tells Bustle. "Screaming into a pillow helps to release that pent up emotion by allowing [you] to express it in a less harmful way."
Of course, it's also OK to share those emotions with others, or vent it all to a therapist. But sometimes you just need a moment alone, and that's when a pillow scream can come in handy.
8. Skip Your Shower
If you have a strict morning routine that includes taking a shower, try skipping it one day as a way of changing things up — just see how it feels.
"Sometimes not going through the motions of our normal hygiene routine can be helpful to our mental health," Thomas says.
It's all about allowing yourself the freedom to do something different, which can give you a break from your everyday routine. And that, Thomas says, can be good for your mental health.
9. Sweat It Out
Sweating is a great way to boost your overall wellbeing, whether it's by exercising, going outside on a warm day, or sitting in a sauna. Saunas, for instance, may leave you drenched in sweat. But the benefits are pretty amazing.
As Wright says, saunas have been shown to help with sleep, anger management, and even depression. So if you can track one down — possibly at a gym or spa — it may be worth it.
"Even if you're in therapy, these things can supplement the work you're doing because their more action-oriented," Wright says. "Plus, some people just like to do things outside of the box."
If you find that any of these tips boost your mood, or help improve your overall mental health, don't be ashamed to do them more often — however odd they may seem.