Mental health activities for adults to support psychological well-being
Americans are more stressed today than ever before, according to recent polls. There are several things that contribute to the lower sense of well-being experienced by adults in the U.S. The most recent Stress in America Report from the American Psychological Association (APA) revealed, for example, that on top of post-pandemic stressors, inflation costs and international war threats have become major sources of trauma for Americans.
While worry and anxiety are nothing new, technology has changed the ways we interact with others and relate to the world around us. For many, this has had a profound psychological impact. You may have found it difficult to maintain meaningful connections with the people in your life. Or maybe you’re beginning to think it’s impossible to juggle all your responsibilities at once. Add a general sense of uneasiness that comes with living in uncertain times, and it becomes easy to feel overwhelmed.
But there are ways to mitigate the impact of stress. Establishing a routine that supports your psychological well-being can make all the difference in the world. Discover some straightforward ways to put yourself first as we explore five mental health activities for adults and take charge of your personal wellness.
5 Simple activities to improve mental health
Sometimes, even the smallest changes can help improve your psychological state. Consider these fun activities to improve mental health and relieve stress.
1. Deep breathing
Stress contributes to common mental health struggles like anxiety and depression. But it can also have a lot of negative effects on you physically — including suppressing your immune system, which can cause you to become sick more frequently.
While stress can’t always be avoided, it helps to establish healthy ways of responding to it. One of the simplest things you can do from literally anywhere is practice deep breathing. By inhaling so that the air coming in through your nose fully fills your lungs, you can help slow your heart rate and lower or stabilize your blood pressure.
According to the American Institute of Stress, by increasing the supply of oxygen you send to your brain, you can stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This helps promote a state of serenity. Regularly practicing breathing techniques can help you feel connected to your body, driving your awareness away from the worries racing through your mind.
In high-stress moments, try to find a quiet space where you can practice this type of deep breathing, and see how your body responds with a new sense of calmness.
Aerobic exercise is one of those activities that may take some internal coaxing to get yourself started — but once you’ve wrapped up a workout, you’ll be happy you did it. That’s because exercise has actually been proven to boost your mood.
Evidence has suggested that there are many mental health benefits of physical exercise. Aerobic activities have been found to reduce anxiety and depression. In addition, exercise can yield the following benefits:
- Better sleep
- Natural mood boost
- Enhanced energy and stamina
- Heightened mental alertness
- Increased social activity
- Improved confidence
- Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular health
From jogging or walking to dancing, biking or swimming, there are many mental health activities that can lead to these positive effects. So, if you’re noticing your anxiety levels beginning to rise, it might be a signal to jump back into a regular exercise routine to get your blood pumping and sweat the stress away.
Tending to a garden is a hobby many people partake in to not only spruce up the landscape around them but also to calm their minds. In addition to providing exposure to fresh air, vitamin D and some light aerobic movement, getting outside for some gardening and/or yard work can positively impact your mental health in a few different ways.
In fact, it has been proven to be an effective method for combating stress. In fact, studies have found that it can reduce cortisol levels — the body’s main stress hormone — in participants’ blood samples. One hospital study also reported that 79 percent of patients expressed feeling more relaxed and calm after spending time in a garden.
But the benefits don’t stop there. In addition to calming your mind, it’s been found that gardening can help prolong your attention span. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health revealed that spending time among greenery can result in a significant reduction of symptoms of ADHD — something that affects the mental well-being of millions across the country.
If you start to feel like you can’t keep up with the world around you or you’re having trouble concentrating on simple tasks, consider taking some time to get outside, dig your fingers into some dirt and let Mother Earth work her magic on your mind.
Bibliotherapy refers to either structured or voluntary book reading with the goal of relieving mental health difficulties. It may sound silly on the surface, but reading has been found to decrease a person’s depressive symptoms. An act as simple as diving into a good book can help lower your heart rate and ease muscle tension, ultimately relieving stress up to 68 percent.
Interestingly, multiple studies have indicated that reading works of fiction can be particularly beneficial. Investing in the narrative arc of a fictional character can help increase a reader’s sense of empathy, strengthen their social skills and improve their level of interpersonal understanding.
If you find yourself overwhelmed by your commitments and craving an escape, cracking into a new literary masterpiece could be just what you need to get back on track.
5. Social interaction
While there are a number of solo activities to improve mental health, you can’t do everything alone — in fact, none of us are supposed to. Scientific findings suggest that humans are wired for connection and community.
It may be your instinct to seclude yourself when you start feeling stressed, but sometimes, social interaction is key to staying on the right track. Several studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems and even live longer — results that are true regardless of the test subjects’ age, gender, health practices or physical health status.
On the flip side, people who are severely lacking in positive social relationships are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. Those who feel connected to others are not only able to keep their anxiety and depression at bay, but they also tend to experience higher self-esteem, have a greater sense of empathy for others and are more trusting and cooperative.
Whether your lifestyle allows for face-to-face get-togethers with loved ones or you invest in some positive virtual communities, maintaining healthy relationships with others can help ensure your well-being is always a top priority.
Make time for mental health activities
Navigating the various responsibilities that come with being a hardworking, driven professional can often feel like a delicate juggling act. You now know that even if things don’t go according to plan and your stress levels begin to rise, there are several things you can do to prioritize your psychological wellness.
You’re now armed with five tried and true mental health activities for adults, but one of the most effective ways to ensure you keep stress at bay is by mastering your work–life balance. This becomes especially true with each new responsibility you take on. Learn more about how education contributes to your overall wellness by exploring 7 ways learning leads to healthy living.
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