Activities that Calm the Mind
Updated: Dec 17, 2022
Journaling, & Yoga, & Gardening. Oh My!
We’ve all heard it before. Yoga can help reduce stress! Journaling helps with self-reflection! Gardening can help bring tranquility! …But can it really? You may (or may not) be surprised to hear that the answer is a resounding yes! Each of these activities are quite powerful tools for maintaining mental wellness. In fact, research shows that all of these activities are proven to help reduce anxiety and depression while boosting life satisfaction and confidence.
Why is this important?
Well, approximately 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. suffer from diagnosable mental health disorders in a given year.
And approximately 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. will suffer from a depressive illness (major depression, bipolar disorder, or dysthymia) each year.
And finally, approximately 3 in 5 adults in the U.S. are impacted by someone with a mental health disorder. Knowing these facts help us understand just how many of our fellow human beings carry the weight of mental health conditions on a daily basis. Of course, we don’t like to buy into labels, but having an awareness of these statistics helps us better understand the impact of mental health and, in turn, become more compassionate with each other, relate to one another, and be more patient with ourselves. It also helps us understand the importance of learning quality tools that not only help ourselves, but help others in our lives as well. Thankfully, with the continuous rise of the internet, people have never been more in touch with a vast supply of resources and information! Every day, new research and studies are conducted on tools to help navigate the ebbs and flows of our mental health and become captain of the boat (or yacht, if you want to be fancy) we call our mind. The following activities can help each of us improve our mental health and find peace and calm in our daily lives. Now that we understand some of the numbers, let's tackle how we might be able to lower those statistics!
Journaling & Mental Health
As a child, you might’ve had a journal, but back then you called it a diary. You may have logged what you did that day or who you saw. You may have shared your deepest secret or your newest crush. Today, we call those secret books of wonder Journals, and they are magical compilations of paper and notes filled with details of the most important thing in your life: you. Journaling is one of the best ways to keep track of your mental health, specifically your feelings, thoughts, or desires. According to recent studies, journaling has shown to decrease anxiety and depression. Who would’ve thought? In fact, journaling can help you become more mindful of anxiety you may be experiencing, reduce stress, and help cope with overall depressive episodes. Journaling also helps prioritize your feelings and emotions by looking deep into your fears, concerns, joyous moments, problems, and solutions. By tracking your every day triggers, you are able to learn better methods of gaining control over your mind and body. Most importantly, journaling provides an opportunity to become best friends with yourself. You can encourage yourself, share your thoughts, hopes, insecurities, and dreams, you can be vulnerable and no one has to know, unless you want them to! That’s one of the best things about journaling. It lends itself to helping you feel free. But what are some facts? Well, studies have shown that journaling can help in numerous ways… some you may not have even thought about! For example, did you know that journaling can help your immune system? It’s true! This may be surprising for many, but a recent study has shown that those who journaled for approximately 20 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week saw benefits such as improved immune function, reduced blood pressure, improved lung function, and improved liver function. Okay, but how? Well, journing allows us to develop something called a “Coherent Narrative.” What this means is that we are looking at our own lives through our own inquisitive and curious magnifying glass. We’re analyzing, just by reflecting! Our Nancy Drew dreams are finally coming to fruition! This analysis through reflection can include things we liked and disliked, things that worked and didn’t work, anything that felt great, and anything that felt miserable. This allows us to keep a record and create a more inherently mindful and holistic method of tracking our habits and reflecting on our lives. This mindfulness has shown to reduce anxiety and depression which in turn can increase our mood, immune system, and overall being, especially if we’re journaling about our diet, mindset, or exercise. Journaling can look a lot of ways, it doesn’t have to be about your feelings. You can journal about almost anything to become more mindful and take charge of your mental health. Journaling can help calm the mind when life becomes too chaotic. By recalling simple pleasures, you can indulge in the recollection of your experience by taking pen to paper.
Yoga & Mental Health
Did you know that yoga is more of a philosophy than it is an exercise? Sure, we practice yoga at our local gym, we know that it involves being mindful of our breath and moving our bodies to take in the world. But Yoga is SO much more than that. Yoga is a philosophy that considers multiple aspects of our being. It’s not just focusing on our breath in moving through poses, it’s about being mindful in our daily life, especially the most mundane or difficult parts. This can mean focusing on our body, mind, and spirit while we are at work, enjoying time with family and friends, relaxing, or while we’re at the gym where we may just so happen to be moving along through the typical poses and postures of the Yogic philosophy.
So what are the other aspects of Yoga if it's not all about postures? Yoga is actually an 8-fold path to liberation rich in teachings on how to live a more peaceful and connected life- (learn more HERE). When it comes to being more mindful you’ll want to explore the following Niyamas (observances): Tapas (discipline) and Svadhyaya (self-study) (sense control) specifically. Both of these involve learning how to look inward and focus on yourself. Ultimately, using that knowledge to then be more mindful with all aspects of your life. The idea is that with this new found control, you’ll gain power over your body and mind. Meaning, you may decide to not eat that second piece of cake even though you’ve been having a hard day and you really, really want it because it will soothe you in some way. But why? Don’t you deserve the cake? Of course. Having control and power over your body and mind is not about you not deserving to eat the cake, it’s about the cake not deserving to be consumed by you. The cake is not a high quality food filled with nutrients to aid your body into growth, we all know that about cake. Practicing these two aspects of disciplined reflection allows you to control that desire while reminding yourself of how worthy you are of all things that are good, nutritious, and joyous. Partnered with journaling… Can you say power couple?
Studies have shown that being more mindful in your daily habits has proven to reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety while increasing control over impulsivities. Practicing these particular aspects of yoga have also proven to be effective in lowering high blood pressure and increasing overall contentment in life. Undoubtedly, when we talk about activities that calm the mind, Yoga will always be near the top of the list.
Gardening & Mental Health
Gardening helps create a growth mindset. Gardening is one of those activities that most of us consider to be either decently good or utterly murderous. To be honest, I used to be a murderous, wanna-be gardener that cluelessly hunted for their next victim at every local Saturday morning market. I desperately wanted to make something grow from love and attention (or sometimes lack thereof). Eventually, after sending so many plants back to, coincidentally, where they came from (I’m surprised environmental activists haven’t banned me from every plant store across the world), I went to a local market and someone actually had faith in me. This wonderful person sold me a succulent, Mother of Thousands, and said “If you kill this, I’ll give you a full refund and then a new free plant. That’s how much confidence I have in you.” That was the first of over 40 plants that now have formed an entrancing jungle in my home and helped me realize the potential I have to care for another life force.
So what is a growth mindset? No it’s not just a play on words. Growth mindset is a real way of thinking about you and your abilities - now and in the future, you know, the abilities you don’t have yet. In fact, having a growth mindset is called understanding the Power of Yet. I’m not a good gardener, yet. I’m not great at journaling, yet. I’m not in control of my thoughts, yet. Having a growth mindset is understanding that you are capable of absolutely anything, you just may not have the tools to be successful yet, and that’s perfectly okay.
Gardening is a lot of work, I won’t convince you otherwise. Did you realize that all that work translates into physical activity? Yes, all that pulling and digging of dirt, repotting and transferring of plants can be a rigorous exercise! So not only does research show gardening helps develop a growth mindset which in turns increases self-worth and confidence, it also allows you to get that blood flowing through that wonderfully, magical body of yours! So let’s get this straight, by the simple act of taking care of a Pothos, we can increase our self-worth, know we’re capable of contributing to the life force, AND EXERCISE? Talk about a fully rounded hobby.
So What’s Next?
Well, that’s up to you! Of course, these activities aren’t the only proven ways to calm your mind and decrease anxiety, there are so many others as well! The activities that we choose to calm our mind are all up to us. Some enjoy writing in our journals, and in turn share the knowledge through blogging (like me!) while others enjoy practicing that deep breathing movement and flow through Asana (Yoga postures) like our founder Jamie and client coordinator Larissa. Whatever it is you enjoy doing, do it with fidelity and love. Take time to figure out what calms your mind and try to practice that activity weekly. We all at least deserve that.
Interested in trying one of these activities but don’t know how?
We can help you with that. We are so excited to share that for our next few blogs, we’ll be diving into each of these activities by tapping into the knowledge from people who practice these activities daily in order to help you get started! Stay tuned for our next release in our series, Activities that Calm the Mind. Which topic will we cover? We’ll give you a little hint: get your pen and paper ready to jot some notes.
Looking for a faster solution in St. Petersburg, Florida? Our therapists use these activities to help their clients gain control of their mind and body by teaching them how to use each effectively. If you’d like the inside scoop from one of us directly, we'd love to work with you to figure out what might work best for you. Scheduling a free fifteen minute consultation is the first step to getting guidance from one of our dedicated team members. We can’t wait to see you Thrive!
Warmly & Fabulously,