Positive risk taking in mental health is also known as therapeutic risk-taking.
Through therapeutic risk-taking, you empower yourself by making decisions about your safety and taking risks that promote your personal growth and recovery.
This positive type of risk taking involves making choices that can result in mistakes – and that’s okay! It’s part of the process. You basically want to leverage your strengths and interests into healthy risks that help you grow as a person.
So what are some examples of positive risk taking in mental health? We’ll cover 7 realistic examples that you could engage in regularly.
(And yes! I’ll give you the exact steps on how to implement these examples into your own life in a healthy way)
Hopefully they can give you ideas for risk management strategies so that you can engage in risky behaviors in a healthier way.
What are 7 examples of positive risk taking in mental health?
When looking through these examples, remember that positive risk-taking is all about focusing on what you CAN do instead of what you CAN’T do.
Sometimes, taking well-calculated risks can lead to enjoyable experiences that help build up your independence and self-reliance!
1. Explore a mall, cafe, or park at your own pace
When it comes to leaving your bedroom, you might fit into two categories:
- “I don’t want to leave my room. I’m not in the mood!”
- “I want to leave my room but I can’t pull myself together to leave.”
Both are valid. In fact, maybe you’ve experienced both of these feelings in a single day!
The good news is that exploring new places at your own pace IS possible. Yes, even if it seems scary or like a drag at first. Take these steps to get started today:
- Choose a place you want to go to. This can be a familiar place or a new place. But try to make this place somewhere you can explore for at least 1-2 hours. You want this to be a new experience but not something so new that it triggers unwanted anxiety. The place could be a mall, cafe, shopping street, or park.
- Choose your method of transportation. Your exploration isn’t just about the new place! It also includes how you get there and the nice sights you might see on your way there. So, depending on your budget and how active you are, you could walk, drive, take a bus/taxi to enjoy the view on your way to this new place.
- Take precautions. Positive risk taking always involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for going to a new place could include:
- Making sure you have your phone with you
- Making sure you told a few people you trust where you’ll go
- Making sure you have enough money for the bus, food/drinks, or a treat for yourself
- Making sure you have Google Maps downloaded on your phone in case you need it for directions
- Making sure you bring an extra jacket in case you’re going somewhere that might be colder insight
- Making sure you bring enough snacks/food/water if you’re going to a park without food available for purchase
- Go on your exploration and enjoy!
2. Watch a livestream and join the conversation when you’re comfortable
Technology has really evolved to let us join group activities without worrying about distance, transportation costs, or even “feeling left out”.
You can add live-streaming to your risk management plan (yes, even if you don’t join the chat) as a way to avoid any negative risk from socializing in large groups. That means that this is a great way to practice positive risk management if you struggle with social anxiety or if you are trying to cope with depression.
Streams work in a pretty simple way:
- Streamers have a schedule where you can tune-in on their channel for a few hours. These times usually have certain themes or activities planned depending on your/their interests.
- You can join the livestream under a username of your choice. The streamer will be able to see you and you can chat with both the streamer and other community members who are watching the livestream!
- Depending on the streamer, they’ll host events, chat with the community, ask the community to play games with them, etc.
- You can also follow livestream channels (this is free) so you can get notified when they go live. Or, you can subscribe to channels (this costs a monthly fee set by the streamer) to unlock special content, more livestreams, or just to support your streaming community.
There is a growing industry of full-time, professional streamers who host activities, chat times, and events with their followers.
So, whether your interests are in gaming, pottery, biking, medicine, or meditation, there’s bound to be a streamer and community that will welcome you and love you to join their streams!
Here are some steps to find the best livestreams where you can slowly take part in events and conversations that interest you:
- Make a list of what you want to do with people. Do you want to study/work with them? Talk about board games with them? Play video games with them? Make art together? This will help narrow down which livestreams you will look for.
- Write down what type of people do you want to be around. There are many personalities and niches of streamers. In fact, some streamers show their real human face and some create virtual 2D/3D avatars that you can engage with. Think about if you feel more safe and comfortable around streamers who are outgoing, soft-spoken, talkative about certain topics (eg. being LGBTQ+, a woman gamer, a new painter, etc.). When you join their livestreams, many of their followers will also have similar personality similarities.
- Look for livestreams and test them out. Like I said – there are MANY personalities and niches of livestream channels and streamers. I suggest that you start looking for streamers on YouTube and Twitch by searching keywords for your interests (ie. your answers to step #1). Then, try to narrow down your favorite streamers by how active they are and the types of personality and community that they convey.
- Take precautions. Remember that positive risk management involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for joining in livestreams could include:
- Making sure you feel comfortable and safe with the community before engaging. Many of the best channels have “rules” where they tell you what type of behavior is and isn’t allowed on their streams (eg. no bullying, no hate-speech, LGBTQ+ friendly, etc.). Try to only engage with stream channels where you feel safe and comfortable talking to the host and other followers.
- Checking your privacy settings before joining any livestream. Are you really anxious or shy and want to stay completely anonymous? Then consider using a username that doesn’t contain your real name. You can also consider using a VPN so that you can watch the entire stream without worrying about people knowing where your real location is. (Pro Tip: free VPN’s are amazing but aren’t usually fast enough to let you watch videos/streams. So you’ll probably have to get a paid VPN subscription IF you want to watch streams anonymously – not required though! It’s totally up to you.)
- Being careful about sharing too much info with strangers.
- Enjoy your streaming experience with a new community of friends!
3. Participate in an online or offline sports or meditation class
If you’re afraid of actual harm but being active with sports is something you’ve wanted to try, no worries! Considering any potential harm is part of therapeutic risk-taking.
You can definitely find a class that you feel comfortable practicing positive risk management in. Let me tell you how…
- Make a list of classes that you’d be interested in taking. Have you been watching people make DIY furniture lately? Do you want to be as active as those people who workout in the park? Have you always wanted to regularly meditate but never got to it? If you can think of it, there’s probably a class for it! So, write it down no matter how weird you think it is. 🙂
- Which classes do you prefer to be online/in-person? Next to each class that you listed, write down whether you’d rather have that class in-person or online. There are pros/cons for each type. If you’re not sure where to start, you can try online classes because they’re usually cheaper and can be a good transition before joining in-person classes.
- Look for classes on Meetup, Google, Urban Sports Center, and EventBrite. Yep, all of these sites make it easy for you to search for online and offline classes for different sports and even meditation. Try to search based on the times you’re available or based on the types of classes you’re interested in (the ones you wrote down in step 1)!
- Take precautions. Remember that positive risk management involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for joining sports and meditation classes could include:
- Making sure that you have your sports equipment (eg. yoga mat, proper shoes for the sport you choose, a sports towel, knee braces, etc.)
- Making sure that the class has proper accommodations for you (eg. for disabled people/people with disabilities, for low-impact needs if you have an injury, etc.)
- Making sure that you keep your class confirmation email
- Making sure that you ask your doctor about any negative risk that you are worried about
- Making sure you draw a clear boundary of when to stop (eg. if you experience too much pain in your knees or back, if you feel too uncomfortable with people in your class, etc.)
- Enjoy your new class!
4. Start a new hobby and share your progress in encouraging Facebook groups or Reddit forums
Your current risk practices don’t have to be something you can’t imagine yourself doing.
In fact, the International Journal of Mental Health Nursing has a study which suggests that therapeutic risk-taking is not about taking risks that can cause harm, hazards and danger. It’s more about taking “risks” that can create possibility, opportunity and achievement.
So starting a new hobby is a perfectly valid positive risk management, especially if you can talk about your progress with a licensed psychotherapist and encouraging support groups.
- Make a list of hobbies you’ve always wanted to start. Have you always wanted to learn how to play an instrument but never stayed consistent? Do you like collecting stickers? Do you love photography and want to get started with your phone or a used camera? Or maybe you want to try taxidermy! Trust me, there’s a supportive group for almost any hobby. So, write it down!
- Go on Facebook or Reddit and search for groups/subreddits that are specific to each hobby. This is the start of starting your hobby! Most of these hobby and interest groups/subreddits are very welcoming and have lots of information for new hobbyists to get started. In fact, oftentimes, these groups/subreddits have pinned posts at the top of the page with information for new members. The best part is how these groups are free to join and leave! So it’s risk-free. 🙂
- Take precautions. Remember that positive risk management involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for starting a new hobby and sharing your progress could include:
- Making sure you have your equipment to start your hobby. If you don’t know where to start, you can check your group’s/subreddit’s pinned information for new hobbyists. Or, you can also make your own post and ask them for recommendations on equipment to get started.
- Making sure you take online safety precautions. Depending on how private of a person you are, you can take different safety measures. If you want to stay completely anonymous, Reddit forums might be best because, unlike Facebook which uses your name, Reddit culture welcomes almost all usernames – great for anonymity.
- Making sure you feel comfortable and safe with the community before engaging. Try to only engage with Facebook groups and Reddit forums where you feel safe and comfortable talking to the admins and other community members.
- Being careful about sharing too much info with strangers.
- Start your hobby and regularly check the groups/subreddits. By seeing how others are progressing with the same hobby that you’re trying, you can gain confidence about your skills and about yourself! This is an amazing hobby and you have a whole community who thinks the same!
- Share your progress with the groups/subreddits or your therapist. No matter how slow you think you are with making progress, trust me – it’s NOT slow! You’re going at your own pace and it’s dependent on your situation. And guess what? Your therapist and your hobby communities will agree. Of course, only do this if you’re comfortable sharing. 🙂
5. Find new friend groups through Discord or Meetup and chat with them at least once a week
Is casual chatting and friend-making something you want to start practicing through positive risk management? No problem!
Discord has been around since 2012 and allows people from all walks of life to connect and share their interests. There are many ways to find friends there including creating channels based on hobbies like gaming, anime, music, etc. Some groups – especially the gaming ones – even host fun contests and events!
If you prefer meeting up face-to-face, try joining meetups hosted by local or groups on Meetup. Many people with common interests host online and offline events throughout the year.
The best part about both Discord and Meetup is how most of these meetups are free! Sometimes the in-person meetups on Meetup cost money but they usually include a drink or equipment for an activity.
Here’s how to get started:
- Make a list of what you want to do with your new friends. Do you want to hike together? Do you want to talk about entrepreneurship over snacks? Do you want to set up play dates with your dogs? This will help narrow down which friend groups you will look for.
- Write down what type of people you want to be around. Even within one interest group (eg. hiking or dog lovers), there are many personalities of people. Write down what type of people you want to be around so that you can start to draw boundaries for yourself on what you will/will not tolerate from your new friends. This is important so that you can stay safe and comfortable even when you are engaging in therapeutic risk-taking.
- Look for friend groups on Meetup and Discord. For in-person groups can search Meetup.com for friend groups based on the keywords of your interests (from step 1). If you want to look for online friend groups, you can search Google or Disboard.org for links to Discord groups. There are many Reddit posts by Discord group admins who are looking for people interested in the same things they are! Again, search for these based on the keywords of your interests (from step 1).
- Take precautions. Remember that positive risk management involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for finding new friend groups this way could include:
- Making sure you feel comfortable and safe with the community before engaging. Most Discord groups have “rules” on what they do and do not tolerate (eg. no bullying, no hate-speech, LGBTQ+ friendly, etc.). Try to only engage with Discord and Meetup groups where you feel safe and comfortable talking to the host and other participants.
- Being careful about sharing too much info with strangers
- Making sure that if you’re engaging in any physical activities that you have the proper equipment and ask the hosts about any potential for harm
- Start joining and interacting with groups! Maybe try to interact or join an event every 2-3 weeks at first. Gradually transition into it – that’s what therapeutic risk-taking is all about!
6. Rearrange a room in your house
Yes, something as simple as rearranging your bathroom, kitchen, or even your dog’s bedroom can be a huge step in therapeutic risk-taking. This is especially the case if you struggle with a mental illness like depression.
So how exactly can you implement therapeutic risk-taking into rearranging one of your rooms?
- Choose a room. Whether it’s your bathroom, office, kitchen, or your entire studio apartment, write down which room you’d like to rearrange.
- Write down why you want to change up your space. Is it because you don’t like the layout of your current living area? Or maybe you just want more privacy? Whatever the reason may be, write it down.
- Think about ways that you can improve upon your current space. You might consider moving furniture, adding shelves, changing out wall art, painting walls, installing curtains, getting rid of clutter, etc. The possibilities are endless! Try to go on Instagram or Pinterest to look for inspiration on how you can rearrange your space. Try to add keywords like “studio”, “minimalist”, or “for pets” depending on what you want to be inspired by.
- Take precautions. Remember that positive risk management involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for rearranging a room in your house could include:
- Making sure that you set a budget for any new furniture or decorations you want
- Making sure that your rearrangement plan is suitable for your physical situation (eg. disabled people/people with disabilities might need a friend to help move heavier furniture)
- Making sure that your new room design has low potential for harm to yourself and your pets!
- Making sure you drink enough water and eat enough food so that you have enough energy
- Being aware of how long it might take you to complete rearranging the room. It usually takes me 2-3 days to rearrange my studio apartment. So, depending on how long it takes you, make sure that you can still safely move around your space in that time.
- Making sure to schedule breaks so that you give your body enough energy to finish the job!
- Taking a picture of how the room is rearranged BEFORE you begin rearranging. This is so that you can change it back if you don’t like the new rearrangement.
- Start rearranging your room! That new view might be an amazing sight (or maybe not – and that’s okay!). The process of taking this risk is equally important as the result.
7. Ask for advice or offer help to a friend
Okay, this might be one of the most “intimidating” examples of positive risk taking in mental health. But I promise to show you a gentle way to make this part of your life! 🙂
Maintaining and strengthening personal relationships is a skill and takes a lot of work. But part of being a good friend is by both offering help and asking for help.
If you struggle with asking for advice and offering help, this might be a great way to practice therapeutic risk-taking.
The best part about this is that doing these two things could help you transition to asking people for help more regularly. So you can start building a support network for when you need help!
And if you’re worried about how to ask or offer help, don’t worry! I’ve got you covered. Here’s how to get started:
- Make a list of people who know you well. Yep, all of them. It can be family, friends, or even your dog.
- Make note of your current relationship with these people. You can put brief notes next to each person’s name like: “good” or “not great”. This should help you mentally prepare for approaching them for anything.
- Take precautions. Remember that therapeutic risk-taking involves considering what could go wrong so that you have confidence in knowing how to handle those situations. Precautions for asking for advice and offering help could include:
- Making sure you are prepared for disappointment. Unfortunately, this is part of building risk tolerance. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and how to deal with social acceptability in your own way. So let me help you out. If you receive a disappointing response and want to stay polite, try saying something like, “Thanks! I wanted to ask you because you’ve experienced ____ before. So, I’ll keep that in mind” Or, “No worries. I just wanted to reach out to see how I could help. It wasn’t my intention to be pushy. I’m here to help. :)”.
- Making sure that you are ready to follow through with whatever you offer. When you offer to help someone, make sure you only offer to help them with something you know that you can help with! For example, if you want to help someone move out of their house but can’t do so physically, you can offer to look up moving companies. Remember, since you offered to help, it’s fair for people to expect you to follow-through.
- Making sure when to draw boundaries. If you sense that someone is taking advantage of you, you are allowed to stop helping them. Write down exactly what you are and are not willing to help someone with. This can make it easier for you to draw boundaries when needed.
- Making sure to thank people who give you genuine advice
- Choose 1 person on your list for very vague life advice. This advice isn’t necessarily stuff you plan to take seriously. Think of these questions as hypothetical questions that you’re asking your friends’ opinions on. For example you could ask, “What do you think would happen if I moved out?” Or “How did you feel when you first got into therapy?”. You may find that these conversations will lead to more opportunities to talk about other things too.
- Choose the same person or a new person from your list and offer them some help. This can be really simple and you don’t even have to know how exactly to help them. They will most likely be grateful and remember you for thinking about them and their struggles. For example you could ask, “I know you’ve been struggling with ____ lately. I’m not familiar with that but I can look it up and help so that you aren’t as stressed about it”. Asking people how you can help them could strengthen your relationship and show that they can rely on you.
- Feel things out and continue maintaining those friendships. You can ask for advice and offer help on a regular basis – maybe once every 2 months or so. This really depends on your situation and the other person’s situation. So again, feel it out and don’t be shy to engage in this form of therapeutic risk-taking as a way to learn about navigating social acceptability in your life.
FAQ: Positive risk taking in mental health
9 benefits of positive risk taking for your mental health
Practicing positive risk management can come with ups and downs. In fact, a current study even points out obstacles associated with therapists and patients implementing this positive mental health practice.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that practicing positive risk taking will improve your overall well-being and quality of life. And if you do encounter challenges along the way, just keep going!
Here are 9 reasons why practicing positive risk taking has been shown to be beneficial for your mental health:
- Regain confidence in your independence. Sometimes, even the people who love and support us won’t be there to help us – and that’s okay! Training yourself to take positive risks is a good way to build confidence in yourself and develop self-reliance that can be helpful when you struggle with your mental health.
- Try a healthy way of growing up and learning about yourself. Positive risk management is a science-based approach to “learning what works for you and what doesn’t” that therapists use as a constructive mental health practice. As long as your chosen risk behaviors don’t hurt yourself or others, you should feel free to try out different things and learn more about yourself. You may find something that helps you grow into a better version of yourself.
- Create opportunities for success. When we choose potential risk options (eg. going to a new place, trying a new activity, etc.) over familiar ones, we create space for ourselves to succeed. This is because engaging in positive risk management can help you discover personal skills, thoughts, and reactions that you didn’t know existed. If we want to change our lives, then we must first make changes within ourselves. By choosing to do things differently than before, we open doors to possibilities.
- Stay motivated. Struggling with your mental health (and trying to stay afloat so you stop struggling with it) often involves staying motivating. Well, positive risk management gives you things to look forward to so that you can stay motivated. Basically, this means doing activities that will keep you excited and engaged. For example, maybe you like hiking but haven’t been able to get outside much lately due to depression. Instead of feeling discouraged, try to create a risk management plan that helps you prepare for potential risks so that you are one step closer to enjoying another hike!
- Learn how to manage your stress and anxiety at your own pace. Remember – positive risk management is less about avoiding all risks and more about risk minimisation! This means that you have more space to learn how you react to certain stressful/anxiety-inducing situations so that you can manage them at your own pace. As a result, you can learn how to better avoid negative risks and enjoy your everyday life.
- Discover new interests. One thing I’ve noticed since beginning my journey towards therapeutic risk-taking was that I started exploring new hobbies and interests. These included photography, cooking, writing, reading, and many other topics. The point here is that therapeutic risk-taking allows you to explore areas of interest that you might not otherwise consider. So, whether you’re looking for ways to relax after work or ways to spend time with friends, there are lots of interesting things to be discovered when you take on a little bit of risk.
- Grow closer to yourself and others. Therapeutic risk-taking allows us to connect with people who share similar experiences. Through these connections, we gain insight into ourselves and each other. And through self-reflection, we become healthier versions of ourselves.
- Boost creativity. Creative thinking has always been linked to happiness and well being. In fact, research shows that creative individuals tend to experience higher levels of psychological wellbeing compared to non-creative peers. Therapeutic risk-taking encourages you to think creatively and experiment with different approaches to problems. You may find that you come up with solutions that were previously unknown to you.
- Build resilience. Resilience refers to an individual’s ability to bounce back from adversity. Research suggests that resilient individuals cope effectively with challenges and setbacks. They don’t let their emotions control them; instead, they use coping mechanisms such as problem solving and social support networks to deal with difficult times. Therapeutic risk-taking provides you with tools to build resilience. It helps you develop an understanding of risk and risk tolerance in managed settings.
- Disconnect from school / work. When it comes to managing our lives, sometimes we need to disconnect from the demands of school or work. For example, if you feel like you’re struggling academically, then perhaps it would benefit you to step away from studying for a while. Or maybe you want to focus on building relationships rather than working hard at your job. Whatever the case may be, therapeutic risk-taking gives you permission to make changes without feeling guilty. You’re still learning about your risk tolerance when you engage in unfamiliar experiences.
So, if you struggle with finding joy in daily living, why not start experimenting with different types of risk management techniques? You may find that you begin to feel happier and more fulfilled in your personal growth.
What are the principles of positive risk taking in mental health?
The following 4 principles will help guide you towards engaging in therapeutic risk-taking. They’re taken directly from a study that provides suggestions for mental health practitioners and their patients:
- Patients and professionals make decisions together.
- Clear information is shared to encourage informed decision-making.
- Using the patient’s strengths and capabilities is a priority.
- Decision making is based on assessing the patient and planning collaboratively.
- Risk-taking can result in positive outcomes as well as negative ones.
It’s important to keep these principles in mind so that you develop a better understanding of risk that can be healthy for your growth.
What are examples of negative risk behaviors?
Negative risks include indulging in too much alcohol, drug-use, unsafe driving, violence, sex, and physically dangerous activities that can harm yourself or others.
If you’re wondering if it’s possible to reduce the likelihood of actual harm, there’s a current study which answered the question, “Can the possibility of harm reduce the frequency of actual harm?”. And turns out, sometimes – yes!
But, how do you know whether something is safe or dangerous? The answer lies in knowing your own limits. If you have no idea where those limits lie, then ask someone who has some better insight on your limits. This person could be a friend, family member, therapist, counselor, doctor, etc.
In summary, these 7 examples of positive risk taking in mental health are great ways to use your strengths and interests to engage in healthier risky behaviors. Hopefully this article helped give you more understanding of risk so that you can feel more confident and in control of your life.
So, let’s get started right now! What are some other examples of positive risk taking? Leave them below in the comments section. I’d love to hear them!
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- Felton, A., Wright, N., & Stacey, G. (2017). Therapeutic risk-taking: A justifiable choice. BJPsych Advances, 23(2), 81–88. https://doi.org/10.1192/apt.bp.115.015701
- Just, D., Palmier‐Claus, J. E., & Tai, S. (2021). Positive risk management: Staff perspectives in acute mental health inpatient settings. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 77(4), 1899-1910.
- Morgan, J. F. (2007). Giving up the Culture of Blame. Risk assessment and risk management in psychiatric practice. Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1-19.
- Positive Risk Taking for Clients. (n.d.). Www.thegoodcaregroup.com. https://www.thegoodcaregroup.com/news/risk-and-reward-positive-risk-taking-clients/