Therapeutic Activities for Mental Health That Work and Are Easy To Do
Some therapeutic activities for mental health can help deal with mental health issues, symptoms, and triggers. We discussed eight of the most effective ones.
Last Updated on July 10, 2021 by Ellyssa

Sadly, as the world becomes more modern and technologically advanced, mental health is still an unrecognized topic by many.

Most of us, even kids and teens, deal with mental health issues without even knowing that we’re experiencing one until it becomes a bigger problem, affecting our lives and the lives of the people around us.

Worst? Some of us might even start completely disconnecting ourselves from our loved ones and society.

The good thing is you can choose from and do a lot of therapeutic activities for mental health, whether or not you’re already seeking professional help.

Therapeutic Activities for Mental Health

The pandemic made most of us stay at home and prevented us from doing activities that used to keep us entertained.

Experts suggest that it is one of the reasons the prevalence of mental health issues increased not just in adults but also children.

Mental health professionals have long been using activity and recreational therapy for individuals suffering from mental health problems and those recovering from substance abuse or addiction.

Thus, they encourage us to engage in activities that aren’t mentally draining but keep our minds off the stresses of work, school, relationships, and what’s going on worldwide.

Let’s look at some of the effective, easy-to-do, and fun activities contributing to positive mental health.

Color a Book

Coloring tops the list because it relaxes the brain’s fear center and generates quietness and mindfulness.

This simple activity also helps bring about a rewarding feeling after finishing a page or two.

If you’re a teenager and an adult, the activity will also help you reminisce about your childhood.

Those days when your parents taught you how to hold crayons and colored pencils and the happiness you felt when they clapped their hands after you succeeded.

Specific colors also help bring about cheerfulness, but be careful since color psychology notes that some colors, such as black and red, have negative effects.

If you want better therapeutic effects, purchase and work on mindfulness coloring books commonly used for art therapy.

Perform Deep Breathing Exercises

Relaxing or staying calm can reduce depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety symptoms and improve your mood.

It might be difficult to achieve, though, if several things are running through your head, such as deadlines, bills, and personal issues.

Performing deep breathing exercises is one of the easiest and quickest relaxation activities because it helps lower blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate.

That said, it will only work if you follow the proper technique:

  1. Find a comfortable sitting or lying position.
  2. Place one of your hands below your ribs while the other on your chest.
  3. Slowly inhale through your nose, allowing your belly to push your hand out and preventing your chest from moving.
  4. With your lips pursed, as if you’re about to whistle, slowly push your belly in to let the air out through your mouth. 
  5. Repeat three to 10 times.

For better therapeutic effects, perform this deep breathing exercise daily.

Meditate

Like coloring and deep breathing exercises, meditation is one of the best activities to deal with mental health issues because it helps you stay calm and find peace.

Although it can help manage anxiety and depression symptoms, it also contributes to helping prevent and deal with stress—one of the leading causes of most mental health issues.

It might take time to master meditation, but there are many online videos that you can watch and follow to meditate correctly.

Additionally, there is a wide selection of meditation activities that you can choose from, including guided, mindfulness, and mantra.

You can even combine it with other relaxing activities, such as yoga, one of the suggested mental self-care practices, tai-chi, and qi gong.

Play Logic Games

Most of you might not like playing logic games because of the misconception that they’re mentally exhausting.

Yes, they require mental sharpness, but if you take the time to learn how to play at least one of them, it will positively affect your mental health.

They’re refreshing and will keep you mentally active, even in the comfort of your own homes, helping stimulate nerve synapses and reduce stress.

Some of the highly suggested logic games you or your children can indulge in are:

  • Crossword Puzzles
  • Falling Block Video Games
  • Mastermind
  • Othello
  • Sudoku
list of therapeutic activities for mental health

Write on a Journal

If you’re an adult, most probably, you kept a diary hidden somewhere safe in your bedroom during your younger years.

It was where you’ve written good and bad memories, as well as your fears and struggles.

If you’ve done this in the past or are doing it now, you know how good it felt (or feels) to express your feelings and thoughts even by just writing them down.

Now, we call it a journal instead of a diary.

Journaling or writing down your thoughts and feelings will help you cope with depression, manage anxiety, and reduce or prevent stress.

Once you read what you’ve written, you can easily identify what triggers or causes your mental health issues and mood changes.

This way, you can find a better means of controlling them and even provide you with the opportunity for positive self-talk.

Experts recommend that you write in your journal daily and write whatever you want to express.

It’s also a good idea to have your journal with you to start writing whenever you feel like it and when the situation calls for it.

If carrying a notebook and a pen with you all the time feels like a hassle, you can download a journal app on your phone.

Eat the Right Kind of Food

Eating might not seem like a therapeutic or recreational activity as this is something you normally do.

However, what you consume can negatively or positively affect your mental health because of the relationship between our nervous and digestive systems.

A study even focused on how gut health affects mental health.

With that in mind, some of the food items known to help mental well-being are as follows:

  • Lean Protein Products

The breakdown product of protein affects the production of a mood-modulating neurotransmitter known as serotonin.

Thus, eating lean protein, usually found in beans, chicken, eggs, and turkey, can help minimize anxiety and depression symptoms.

  • Fatty Fish

Although also categorized as a lean protein source, fatty fish, like herring, mackerel, sardines, and salmon, helps supplement your body with omega-3 fatty acids.

These fatty acids have a role in the production of serotonin and another essential mood-modulating neurotransmitter, dopamine.

Hence, they can help reduce ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia symptoms.

  • Leafy Vegetables

Most leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, turnip, and lettuce, are rich in vitamin B, especially folate.

A published study showed that normal levels of vitamin B-complex could help decrease depression symptoms.

It also noted that low levels could contribute to poor antidepressant therapy outcomes.

  • Fermented Food

Kefir, kimchi, pickled vegetables, tempeh, and yogurt are rich in healthy gut bacteria or probiotics that help produce the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

Good levels of GABA help improve sleep and mood and relieve anxiety, as proven by a study that focused on using probiotics as a supplemental treatment for anxiety and depression.

However, over-consumption of fermented food or probiotic products isn’t good for the gut since it can cause microbial biota imbalance.

Besides choosing the right kind of food, when and how you consume it also impacts eating’s “therapeutic effect.”

Simply chewing your food and sipping your beverage slowly, and enjoying them can help you relax.

Hence, it’s always best to wake up early and enjoy a good breakfast, especially since rushing for work or school stresses you out and makes you anxious.

Do Random Acts of Kindness

Volunteering or helping others without being asked, especially with a group or organization, is one of the best activities to help manage mental health issues.

Studies have shown that volunteerism can decrease the risk for depression because of increased social interaction and having a network of friends with a common interest.

It also gives you a sense of purpose and a feeling of being appreciated, and both of which can help manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Communicate With a Person You Trust

Simply conversing with a person who cares about you and understands, loves, and appreciates you can do wonders.

That is most especially if you’re anxious, depressed, and stressed out or you feel like what’s going on in your life is a little too much to handle.

Being with them or simply hearing their comforting voice will assure you that you’re not alone.

Of course, it’s also best to have a chat or a short date with them at least once a week, even if you’re not going through something.

If going out to eat or have coffee, watch a movie, or do activities together isn’t feasible, you can simply chat on social media or talk on the phone.

Managing Mental Health Issues Through Simple Activities

The therapeutic management of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and their causes, especially stress, is always best carried out by a professional.

Some conditions would already require the use of certain medications and regular individual or group therapy sessions that only knowledgeable and trained individuals can prescribe.

Even self-therapy apps don’t claim that you won’t need the help of a therapist.

Nonetheless, it’s no secret that you must also ensure you help yourself or do your part so that the interventions succeed.

Many simple therapeutic activities for mental health, such as those listed above, have been proven to help manage symptoms and deal with the causes and triggers of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

Engaging in one or more of them won’t do you any harm but rather good, so go ahead and try them out and see what works best for you.