Mental health matters. After years on the rise, the average life expectancy recently plummeted in the United States, spurred in large part by deaths of despair. People are turning to the bottle, drugs or suicide in record numbers.
Therefore, there’s no better time to take self-help actions to improve your psychological state. Why not try one of these eight unexpected ways to support your mental health and get to feeling better more quickly?
1. Play With Your Children
Did you ever watch children laughing and skipping at playtime and wish you could bottle their enthusiasm? You can do the next best thing by getting out there and moving with them. Exercise pumps up your flow of feel-good endorphins, natural body chemicals that ease mild pain and produce a euphoric effect.
Better yet, you can take pride in the fact that you positively influence your child’s mental health, too. Research indicates that children whose parents actively encourage unstructured play tend to feel better about themselves. This confidence equates to a reduction in undesirable behaviors such as bullying.
Plus, laughing and zipping down the sliding board with uninhibited abandon is a blast. Your little one gives you the perfect excuse to free your inner child — take it!
2. Go for a Hike
Merely gazing at pictures of relaxing nature scenes can lower your stress levels and make you more productive. Imagine what immersing yourself in the forest can do for your mental health.
Going for a hike might improve more than your mental state. It could boost your immune health, too. Researchers who investigated forest bathers found a higher number of natural killer cells in those who spent time in the woods at least once every thirty days. After the past year’s events, who doesn’t want to shore up their body’s defenses?
3. Phone a Friend
Did you know that feeling lonely poses health risks? Investigators found a nearly 20% increase in all-cause mortality among those who reported this emotion in a recent study.
Unfortunately, people with mental illness tend to isolate themselves, fearing that they’ll only bring other people down or prove bad company. Please give your mental health a boost by reaching out to a friend or family member by phone and reconnecting. You’ll both benefit from the interaction.
Sadly, many people who need mental health care the most in America can’t access it. They either don’t have insurance or can’t afford the copays, thanks to stagnant wages and soaring costs. Disparities in health outcomes are wider in the United States than any other industrialized nation because of its distinction as the only country that doesn’t cover all citizens with a universal coverage plan.
You can do much to advocate for improved mental health services. Begin by supporting politicians who embrace covering everyone with a single-payer plan. If you have more energy, call your representatives and write letters to the editors of your local papers.
You don’t have to get into political advocacy to reap the mental health benefits of volunteering. Local animal shelters nearly always need caring individuals to socialize kitties and walk puppies. Likewise, many local parks and nature areas could use clean-up crews.
Why should you perform acts of kindness? Research shows that volunteering increases the flow of dopamine and oxytocin, neurotransmitters that improve your mood and mental health.
6. Go Dancing
Dancing combines the endorphin-boosting benefits of physical activity with the therapeutic quality of music. If you’ve ever smiled when your favorite jam came over the loudspeaker, you know how good tunes can improve your mental state.
Dancing also entails a social component, helping you to feel less lonely. Do you still need another reason to put on your boogie shoes? Of several activities studied, dancing showed the biggest preventative impact on dementia, most likely thanks to the combination of physical movement with the mental challenge of following choreography.
7. Get (or Give) a Massage
If your love language is giving and receiving physical touch, you might benefit the most from this suggestion. However, everyone can reap the perks of healing massage.
You might not need to spend as much as you think if you have a willing partner or family member. You can teach each other the techniques and exchange your services while you catch up on the news of the day.
If you find yourself flying solo, why not look into affordable professional treatments? Many massage therapy schools offer services at a fraction of the cost.
8. Practice Yoga
In many ways, yoga is like a massage you give yourself. Gently stretching and manipulating your muscles through various poses can ease aches and pains. This benefit alone can help improve your mental state.
However, many yoga classes also teach you how to breathe. Techniques such as 2-to-1 breathing can interrupt anxiety attacks even when you aren’t on the mat. You also cultivate a sense of inner stillness that carries over into daily life.
Support Your Mental Health These 8 Unexpected Ways
It’s more important today than ever to take daily steps to safeguard your psychological well-being. Please support your mental health in these eight unexpected ways.
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