Reaching beyond the daily grind: Free, Easy, and Cheap options to achieve balance and a sense of control
You like free and cheap strategies – read on! You already know the reality at this point - disrupted routine, boredom, kids home that demand attention, yearning for personal connection, trying to be productive and engage in meaningful activities. How do you reach beyond your current circumstances and bring color to your day, have structure, meaning, and texture in your life? Sinking into despair, fighting the circumstances, becoming resentful or bitter are not healthy choice options. What can you do daily to reach beyond the grind and restore a sense of balance? Using the suggestions below will assist you in grabbing small daily opportunities to push beyond your current circumstances for improved functioning and renewal. I’ve included at least one link with each strategy in case you’d like to dig a little deeper. Pick one per day, or maybe two. You’re in control.
13 Things You Can Do Now:
- Get outside. Fresh air and a change of scenery can help alter your perspective and improve your mood. Harvard has one study here on the benefits: https://www.health.harvard.edu...r-health-go-alfresco and here’s one from Nami in California: https://namica.org/mental-health-benefits-of-nature/ No excuses, now. You can bundle up if it’s cold, get your umbrella and jump in puddles if it’s rainy. Heck, just sit on the porch for a spell. Like our friends at REI say, “Get Outside”!
- Jot down your feelings and thoughts in a private notebook. Don’t pressure yourself to make it sound just right. Don’t worry about length, spelling, punctuation. Just freestyle. When you put pen to paper there is positive brain activity. The left analytical side and the right creative side of your brain work cooperatively in a mood-boosting, thought-organizing way. Find more evidence and tips here: https://positivepsychology.com...efits-of-journaling/ and https://intermountainhealthcar...efits-of-journaling/
- Even if you have no rhythm. Just freestyle. Put on some music and shake your booty. Nobody has to see you. But if you want them to, host a Zoom dance party like my niece Vivian did. Check out this link for more mental health benefits of dancing and then bust a move: https://www.healthline.com/hea...ts-of-dance#benefits
- We do it in the shower. We do it in the car. You don’t have to sound good. Just go for it. Singing makes you more alert, releases endorphins, and makes you happy! There are multiple studies on the benefits of singing. Here’s one quick link: https://takelessons.com/live/s...-benefits-of-singing
- Move your body. Walk, run, stretch, Yoga, bicycle, skate, jump rope, jumping jacks, Pilates, swim, whatever gets the mojo flowing. This isn’t about being an athlete; It’s about taking control of your body and feeling good. Need more encouragement? Read this: https://www.huffpost.com/entry...s-exercise_n_2956099 and one specifically about yoga: https://www.psychologytoday.co...ake-stand-yoga-today.
- Practice Mindfulness. Hit the mental pause button and allow yourself to be in the moment with non-judgment, no labels, just observing with your senses what is. Many Mindfulness exercises are anchored to your breath, to help you slow down and deepen your breathing for an overall calming effect. You can Google Mindfulness exercises and find all you will ever need. More on the benefits of Mindfulness here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/j...tation/#601fe0bb63ce
- Make something. Getting crafty releases some of that natural feel-good stuff in your brain called Dopamine. So decorate a cake, paint, color, knit, quilt, collage, sew, sidewalk chalk, macramé, or glue tongue depressors together. Use what you have in a new, interesting way. It doesn’t have to be pretty. This is about relaxing, but also experiencing the satisfaction of creating something. Here are two great articles: https://www.psychologytoday.co...d-your-own-two-hands and https://www.forbes.com/sites/a...health/#69a5c1713a64
- Grow something. Plants increase endorphins - the happy chemicals in our brains - connect us to nature, improve the air quality, and are lovely to look at. It’s especially rewarding when you plant a seed, tend to it, and observe the subtle changes day-to-day as you watch it flourish. There are many benefits to having plants inside or outside, no green thumb required. https://www.psychologytoday.co...and-emotional-health, https://ellisonchair.tamu.edu/...-benefits-of-plants/ and https://www.healthline.com/hea...n-helps-my-anxiety#1
- Make a fire. There is something so innately relaxing about sitting by the warm glow of a fire. There is research that suggests the flickering light, warmth, and gentle crackling sound of fire improves our mental health. This article has more insight: https://www.discovermagazine.c...ion-may-hold-the-key If you have marshmallows, chocolate squares, graham crackers, and a long stick, make s’mores! If you can’t have a fire, then light some candles for a similar effect.
- Get water. Water is a natural element and essential to our well-being. It’s true most of us should be chugging more water, but beyond that, research has shown being around water is relaxing. Get some chill time next to a stream, river, pond, lake, Ocean, or public fountain. Dip your toes in, take a swim, paddle a vessel, or just look upon the glistening H2O. If you can’t go to water, just taking a shower or bath, or even listening to a recording of water has mental health benefits. For further info, peruse: https://qz.com/1347904/blue-mi...s-of-being-by-water/, https://solaramentalhealth.com...ression-and-anxiety/, https://thriveglobal.com/stori...u-get-from-swimming/,
- Stay connected. Most songs and poems are about relationships. Why? We are social beings. Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, we need each other. Human connectivity is the best predictor of well-being. There are tons of studies on this. For starters, http://ccare.stanford.edu/unca...nection-infographic/ and https://www.mercurynews.com/20...inion-mental-health/ So call, Zoom, Skype, Facebook, Google Hangout, text, or good ‘ol fashioned write a letter to someone.
- Play a game. Get those neurons firing, decrease stress, and have fun! While there is research to suggest playing video games can have a positive impact on mental health, I’m suggesting you go old school here. Dig deep in the closet, attic, or garage and dust off those board games. Dominoes, cards, pen & paper games, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku are good, too. But don’t just take my word for it: https://www.level99games.com/b...ealth-by-gabe-nelson or https://mailtribune.com/lifest...lth-with-brain-games
- Be Random. Why should kids have all the fun? When did we stop making blanket forts and cardboard box castles, juggling, blowing bubbles, throwing a rubber ball against the steps, climbing trees, going on scavenger hunts, picking flowers, finger painting, and making sidewalk chalk masterpieces? Sometimes it’s OK and healthy to stop all the adult posturing and just play. Follow these links for more: https://www.npr.org/sections/e...ults-need-recess-too, and https://www.washingtonpost.com...dbe4f2bca_story.html
Shelli Altopp-Miller, LCSW, is a School Social Worker in the Finger Lakes Region of New York