5 Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Backed by Research

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Supporting your mental wellbeing doesn’t always require a lot of time or effort. In fact, a few simple tweaks to your weekly routine can help reduce stress and bring more joy into your life. Here are some simple ways to help your mental health today.

1. Connect With Others

Tap into your social circle. Feeling like you belong to a group includes many benefits for your mental health, and it’s associated with lower instances of depression, according to the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. Even a quick chat with an old friend can lift your mood in an instant.

Reach out to your friends and family, or find a new group of people with similar interests on a site like Meetup. Whether you’re into rock climbing or learning a new language, there’s probably a relevant meetup group nearby. If not, you can start a new group yourself to meet like-minded folks.

In addition, use social media apps to make friends in your area. Some apps, like Hey! VINA, are all about fostering new friendships. Even larger sites like Facebook tend to list events in your area that would be a great resource for finding new buddies.

Whether you’re nurturing existing relationships or mingling with new people, maintaining a healthy social life is an amazing investment in your overall wellbeing.

2. Get Moving

Exercise can help you sleep better, and it may also reduce instances of anxiety and depression, according to ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal. As far as improving your general quality of life, getting more movement in your day tends to offer both physical and mental benefits.

Working out doesn’t have to be a boring grind, either. Use a fun workout app like Playfitt to make exercising feel more like a game.

By completing challenges and doing squats, planks, or increasing your step count, the app rewards you with coins. These can go toward gift cards for places like Amazon or Allbirds.

Instructions accompany each exercise, and a motivating voice congratulates you for hitting your workout goals. It’s a great way to discover the types of exercise you find most enjoyable, and the rewards keep everything fun and motivating.

You can also connect with friends to remind one another to get your movements in. Give the app a try and watch your coins add up in no time.

Download: Playfitt for iOS (Subscription required, free trial available)

3. Practice Mindfulness

A review of over 200 studies showed mindfulness-based therapy was effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and stress, according to the American Psychological Association. If you’re curious about mindfulness meditation but don’t know where to start, apps are a simple way to learn about the basics.

The free Healthy Minds Program app teaches you basic mindfulness meditation techniques in a series of lessons designed to help reduce stress. On the My Path screen, listen to the introductory audio that explains how the program eventually trains your mind to become calmer and more focused.

Presented in a clear, friendly way, the science-backed lessons feel like listening to a calming podcast. Right away, you’ll take deep breaths in a mindful way and start working on the basics of meditation.

And unlike other programs, this one also includes active meditations, bringing movement into your practice. If this sounds interesting, then you may want to learn more about practicing walking meditation as well.

For the most part, this free app offers an approachable and thorough introduction to mindfulness that only takes a few minutes of your day. Plus, it’s totally free.

Download: Healthy Minds Program for iOS | Android (Free)

4. Enjoy Leisure Activities

Spending a little time on relaxing activities, such as creating art, listening to music, or enjoying a hobby, may help manage symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, according to The Lancet Psychiatry. Unfortunately, it’s easy to push these fun activities aside when your schedule gets too hectic.

As much as possible, try to make time each week for the hobbies you enjoy, whether that’s reading, gardening, or catching up on Netflix. Or, pick up some new skills with help from an app like Craftsy, which offers classes and tips on everything from sewing to jewelry-making.

Learn more about crochet, knitting, cake decorating, or drawing on the Discover screen. Get lessons on how to make a t-shirt quilt, for instance, or create adorable amigurumi animals. Chances are, you’ll find some activities on Craftsy that spark your interest and creativity.

In addition, the Classes section includes video instructions for plenty of different projects, whether you want to work on calligraphy, acrylic painting, or close-up photography. Basically, if you want more creative outlets, the Craftsy app is a gigantic resource that will keep you busy with new projects for quite a while.

Download: Craftsy for iOS | Android (Free, in-app purchases available)

5. Spend Time in Nature

Even 10 minutes of sitting or walking in a natural setting can help reduce stress and mental strain, according to a study of college students in Frontiers in Psychology. Connecting with nature, even in the smallest doses, can boost your mood in the best way. Even taking a quick walk around your local park is an effective stress-buster.

For spending even more time outside, the OuterSpatial app helps you find new places to explore, navigate trails, and connect with other outdoorsy people. It’s a great way to find new outdoor spaces near your home, and it’s also helpful for finding great trails, parks, and more when you’re traveling.

Search by areas that are family-friendly, dog-friendly, safe for cycling, and more on the Home screen. Or, tap the Explore tab to bring up a map of your area with the outdoorsy locations marked by green dots. Hopefully, you’ll find plenty of nearby green spaces to enjoy.

Download: OuterSpatial for iOS (Free)

Care for Your Mental Health With Simple Habits

Spending more time in nature, diving into a new hobby, and connecting with others are simple ways to help support your mental health. With help from a few apps and other resources, care for your overall mental wellness using whatever option works best for you.

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