8 Creative Ways to Improve Your Mental Health This Year 

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The mental health crisis in America only worsened during the Covid pandemic. According to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three out of four adults reported increased alcohol use. The problem was most prevalent in women, with a 41% rise in heavy drinking, defined as four or more drinks within a few hours. 

Unfortunately, millions of people in our country remain without meaningful access to mental health treatment. Many Americans are uninsured or underinsured, and those who have coverage may not be able to take sufficient time off work to attend therapy sessions. You have to get a bit innovative to protect your psyche — here are eight creative ways to improve your mental health this year. 

1. Download an App

If you can’t afford the time, money or both for traditional therapy, perhaps there’s an app for that. You can find multiple versions on the market, some for free. Others require a modest investment, but they’re often a fraction of the price of conventional treatment. 

For example, apps such as Calm feature various exercises and meditations designed to address anxiety and depression. Many such apps allow you to track your mood daily, an indispensable tool for tracking your progress. Some, such as Talkspace, allow you to interact in real-time with licensed counselors via text and a limited number of virtual in-person sessions. 

2. Take a Hike 

Turn to the great outdoors to tame the restless soul. Research indicates that merely getting out in nature helps reduce feelings of stress and even increase productivity. 

If you don’t have a nature area near you, head to the park. Anywhere you can free yourself from linear shapes and enjoy green, uneven hues will make you feel calmer. Walking also reduces stress and anxiety, tapping into your natural flight reflex and moderating your cortisol levels. 

3. Write in a Journal 

Electronic communication is convenient, but it can also create problems. Who hasn’t shot off an email in the heat of the moment that they later regretted?

Instead, write your angry, negative or otherwise unpleasant thoughts in a journal. You can use this tool as a safety release to vent when doing so out loud would lead to unwanted consequences. 

You can also use journaling to help you accentuate the positive. Keep a gratitude journal — each night, write down one or two things you were thankful for during the day. Doing so consistently will gradually change your outlook. 

4. Dance

Dance is a glorious way to relieve stress. It could also help you preserve your cognitive abilities. 

Scientists investigated the effects of various activities on Alzheimer’s and dementia risk. Dance came out the clear winner, perhaps because of the neuroplasticity involved in following the steps and the endorphins and other positive neurochemicals released during physical activity. 

5. Phone a Friend

Human beings are social creatures. They crave connection with others, and loneliness can kill, increasing the chances of death from all causes. 

Why not reach out to that old college roommate whom you haven’t heard from in years? Phone an older relative just to say hi and see how they’re doing? 

6. Take a Vacation

Many Americans don’t take enough — if any — vacation time, and it is crushing their mental health. We’re all humans, not robots, and we need downtime to perform at our best when we go hard. All this burnout is a driving force behind the Great Resignation. 

If you have the means, take a vacation. When you do, completely unplug. Set an auto-reply on your email and messaging accounts and either leave your devices at home or turned off — unless you need them to capture a picture of that gorgeous mountain or beach sunset.

7. Do Some Good 

It turns out that doing good for others helps you, too. Volunteering sets off a flood of positive neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, instantly improving your mood. 

You don’t have to look far to find folks who need extra help these days. You can even find volunteer opportunities from home if you’re still isolated due to Covid, such as virtual text and phone banks. 

8. Practice Yoga 

Yoga has existed for thousands of years for a good reason — it works. Combining gentle body movements with deep breathing calms your central nervous system like few other activities. Best of all, you can find a style to suit nearly anyone. 

If you struggle with anxiety, you might need an outlet for all that restless energy. Try a high-endurance style such as ashtanga or vinyasa. 

Those who prefer to slow down and achieve calm might do better with a gentle yin class. Such classes are also ideal for those with chronic pain conditions, as this style stretches deep into connective tissues along with relieving muscle tension. 

Creative Ways to Improve Your Mental Health This Year 

The mental health crisis in America continues to grow. However, you don’t have to become a statistic, even if you lack the resources for care. Try one of these creative ways to improve your mental health this year and get back to feeling better.