Would you be willing to dedicate 20 minutes a day to boost your own happiness? Experts say there are a few simple activities that take just a few minutes each day and can improve your mental health, making you feel more energized.
Exercise 3 times a week for 20 minutes. Did you know that the mood benefits for 20 minutes of exercise last for up to 12 hours? Exercise releases endorphins and other feel-good brain chemicals to reduce levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin. Exercising in nature – like walking in the park or taking a bike ride – has an even more powerful effect on mood than indoor exercise. As a proven treatment for depression and anxiety, exercise is great for your mental health.
Journal or draw about a positive experience. Keeping a journal is a good way to spend time reflecting on the events of the day. Some people use words, while others reflect through images, photos and doodles. A journal is a place to vent emotions in a healthy way. It’s a place to write down ideas and insights. If a journal is used regularly, it becomes the story of your life. With journaling, you can turn off your inner critic and get lost in your hopes, dreams and good memories. The website www.journalingsaves.com provides writing prompts and inspiration for creativity and personal growth.
Random acts of kindness. Whether you call it paying it forward, helping a neighbor, or practicing the Golden Rule, random acts of kindness never go out of style. In fact, there’s a whole web community aiming to make 2016 the kindest year yet! Helping others provides a host of benefits to the helper. It can raise your self-esteem, strengthen your mental health, help you build social connections and boost your immune system. Engaging children in random acts of kindness helps teach empathy and compassion, and as a result, teachers have utilized lessons to transform school cultures using the power of kindness.
Deep breathing and meditation enhances activity in areas of the brain associated with happiness and compassion. By practicing daily meditation, you will become less likely to panic or get upset. Marci Shimoff, author of the book, Happy for No Reason: Seven steps to become happy from the Inside Out suggests using the “Pause Practice.” She recommends pausing seven times throughout the day to “just be.” When you become aware of your breath and live in the present moment, you can quiet the brain’s alarm system and inhibit the release of stress hormones. When this becomes a habit, your brain will default to a peaceful state, rather than to states of fear and anxiety.
Don’t believe everything you think. Make a habit of challenging your negative thoughts. Byron Katie, an internationally-renowned speaker developed a method she calls, “The Work,” which helps people identify and question the thoughts that cause anger, fear, depression, addiction and violence. By examining and undoing those thoughts, you can allow your mind to return to its true, awakened, peaceful, creative nature. Everything you need to do “The Work” can be found on Katie’s website. The Work has helped thousands of people embrace reality and live in the joy of the moment.
For more information about activities that benefit your mental health, go to www.communityreachcenter.org or call (303) 853-3500, Monday through Friday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call Colorado Crisis Services for 24-Hour assistance: (844) 493-8255 (TALK) or dial 911 for emergency assistance.