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10 Surprising and Unusual Ways to Improve Your Mental Health

When it comes to improving your mental health you can never wrong with traditional techniques like exercise, eating healthy, meditation, practicing gratitude, and sharing your feelings with others like a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. But, those aren’t the only ways that you lessen anxiety, stress, and depression. In fact, there are plenty of other methods that you may never have ever thought of, such as the following 10 surprising and unusual strategies.

1. Jump on the bed.

"Many of us have lost connection with the playful part of ourselves," therapist Rev. Connie L. Habash MA, LMFT, told Bustle. "We all have an inner child that wants to be silly and spontaneous."

As a parent, you may frown upon this when your children jump on the bed. But, it’s a simple way to shake up your routine, reduce stress, and just have fun. But, if you want to set an example for your children, consider alternatives like riding a bike, drawing in an adult coloring book, or playing games.

"This is how we access joy," Habash says. "It’s almost certain to lift your mood."

2. Sing more often.

“Singing does wonders for us. When we sing, the musical vibrations move through the body and alter our emotions, writes Kim Thomas, US Health Corps Writer and Advocate on Talkspace. “The result is a calming effect that provides energy for later.”

“Researchers are learning that the act of singing soothes the nerves and lifts our spirits, most likely because singing releases endorphins that are associated with pleasure,” adds Thomas. Additionally, singing releases oxytocin, which alleviates both anxiety and stress.

“Oxytocin also boosts feelings of trust and bonding and lessens feelings of depression and loneliness. That’s why singing can be therapeutic in a group and joining a choir is so good for our mental health,” says Thomas.

3. Cook your meals.

We know that food like leafy greens, whole grains, fatty fish, lean proteins, and yogurt with active cultures, kefir, kimchi, and tempeh can improve your mental health. But, did you know that actually cooking is just as beneficial?

“Cooking at home, or other places are good for your mental health because cooking is an act of patience, mindfulness, an outlet for creative expression, a means of communication, and helps to raise one’s self esteem as the cook can feel good about doing something positive for their family, themselves or loved ones,” Julie Ohana LMSW and founder of Culinary Art Therapy in West Bloomfield, Michigan told LIVEKINDLY.

4. Clean your bathroom.

Some of us dread this chore. But, it can also be relaxing and help reduce stress and anxiety.

"The bathroom is a small and contained space, so it's not an overwhelming room to clean and the benefits are amazing," therapist Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT tells Bustle. "Yes, it's gross to clean toilets sometimes and yes, you will be amazed at the grime that comes off of the bottom of your sink or the shelves in your bathroom, but the feeling of completing it and the feeling of seeing a clean bathroom will help with your mental health and your mood."

5. Watch birds.

“Watch birds - any kind - from a window, in a garden or around your neighborhood,” writes Victoria Maxwell for Psychology Today. “Doing so is associated with lower levels of depression, anxiety & stress, according to a study from the University of Exeter in England.”

This is most likely because of “the ‘attention-restoration theory’ which posits that being in nature, and even simply watching nature, promotes healing and lessens stress, researchers explored the potential benefit of nature to improve mood.”

“The researchers found no correlation between the species of birds seen, but instead the number, indicating that seeing common birds such as robins, crows, and blackbirds on a regular basis is a key factor,” explains Maxwell.

6. Knit

“Knitting is psychologically and socially beneficial and can contribute to well-being and improved quality of life,” writes Erica Crompton in an article for Metro News.

“Stitchlinks are working closely with academics and clinicians, and as a direct result, therapeutic knitting and therapeutic knitting groups have been acknowledged for their benefits in the NHS since 2006.”

If knitting isn’t your thing, try out some other hobbies that can reduce anxiety and depression such as gardening, photography, fishing, writing, reading fiction, and putting together puzzles.

7. Apply a mud mask.

"Applying a mud treatment on your skin certainly improves your mental health," licensed psychotherapist Adamaris Mendoza, LPC, MA, tells Bustle. "It relieves muscle and joint aches and pains, helps [...] improve circulation, relaxes you, and relieves stress."

If you don’t have the time or supplies to apply a mud mask, simply soak in a hot bath. When your body is operating efficiently you feel good and your mood is enhanced."

8. Get a pet.

“Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness, and even improve your cardiovascular health,” write Lawrence Robinson and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. “Caring for an animal can help children grow up more secure and active” and they “provide valuable companionship for older adults. Perhaps most importantly, though, a pet can add real joy and unconditional love to your life.”

While we often think of cats and dogs as pets, simply “watching fish in an aquarium can help reduce muscle tension and lower pulse rate.” Some studies have also found that chicken-rearing can “combat loneliness, depression and the need for heavy-duty anti-psychotics.”

9. Hold a big rock.

"When you’re feeling anxious, agitated, like you’re spinning around and overloaded with stress, you probably need to get grounded," Habash says. "A great way to do this is to find a large river rock, or any kind of sizable stone."

So, the next time your outside, go ahead and pick up a rock when you see it. "Hold it in your hands or lap, and feel its weight," adds Habash. "Let all the stresses and agitation be pulled down into the earth and release them. You, as the solid and steady rock, remain more calm and peaceful."

10. Talk to yourself.

“Talking to ourselves is completely within the norm. In fact, we talk to ourselves constantly,” says Dr. Jessica Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist based in New York. “One can argue that just thinking things through quietly, without speaking out loud, is talking to ourselves.”

“If we speak out loud, it forces us to slow down our thoughts and process them differently because we engage the language centers of our brain,” explains Dr. Nicolosi. “By talking to ourselves we become more deliberate, and this creates a slower process to think, feel and act, instead of being bombarded by our thoughts.”

Do you know of any unusual ways to improve mental health? If so, please share them with us by leaving a comment.

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