- The normal human condition means that we are challenged, stressed, and have ups and downs fairly regularly.
- Walking increases the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream, which can help improve many cognitive processes.
- Making something and being able to see and enjoy the finished product is a powerful antidote to stress.
It doesn’t take a mental health diagnosis for a person to feel the range of unpleasant emotions. The normal human condition means that we are challenged, stressed, and have ups and downs on a fairly regular basis. One of the hallmarks of people who successfully meet these challenges is that they routinely manage them with everyday activities known to counteract stress. There are clearly many different coping and health-promoting strategies that help us manage our emotions and make considered decisions about problems in our lives. What is offered here are three things that you can do to feel better right now, whether you are stressed, bored, upset, or feeling stuck in a rut.
Take a walk: For your physical and mental health, there is nothing quite so powerful as a simple walk. The act of walking increases the amount of oxygen circulating in your bloodstream, which is linked to improvement in a number of physical and cognitive processes, and walking stimulates the release of endorphins (hormones that promote feelings of well-being).
If you want to supercharge the feel-good properties of the walk, do it outside in a natural setting such as a beach, park, or hiking trail. While any walk is good, walking and getting fresh air at the same time is great. Breathing in fresh air is more effective at increasing blood oxygen levels than breathing in indoor, recirculated air. Walking in a natural setting decreases cortisol when you are stressed, improves mood, boosts the immune response, increases energy, and makes it more likely you’ll do it again.
If you want to take your walk to a pro level, go with a dog or a friend. Both will facilitate an increase in your positive social interactions, social connectedness, and mood. Oh, yeah—and turn your phone off and leave it in your pocket (see below).
Make something from scratch in the kitchen: The act of making something and being able to see and enjoy your finished product is a powerful antidote to stress and promotes feelings of accomplishment, achievement, and well-being. The act of producing food from scratch and being able to enjoy that yourself creates a chain of positive reinforcement and feelings of self-worth. To maximize the effects, share some with others and experience the benefits of social connectedness and feelings of appreciation. The health benefits of eating nonprocessed, fresh food, are just the icing on the (homemade) cake.
Put down the phone and step away from the computer/tablet: Being constantly available and connected via our devices makes us abnormally responsive to sometimes overwhelming stimuli produced by our phones and other electronics. And excessive screen time is linked to a number of psychological and physical problems. Specifically, too much screen time has been shown to present significant risks to us in the form of depression, poorer general well-being, sleep disturbance, neck pain, visual problems, poor body image, and decreased physical activity. Self-limiting your screen time can negate the aforementioned problems and facilitates increased physical activities, which have both physical and mental health benefits, and increases your face-to-face socialization opportunities when you are not sequestered within your screen.
These are but three things that can make a difference in how you feel right now and how well-prepared you are to handle life’s curve balls. So stop reading this post and silence your phone, make yourself a homemade snack, grab the dog, and head outside for a walk. You’ll be glad you did.
Disclaimer: Please note that these are tips meant for our normal everyday challenges, and, while some may be components of a mental health treatment plan, they are not intended as stand-alones and should not be considered as replacements for treatment for those needing professional mental health care. Always seek the advice of a mental health provider if you need it.