It’s OK to admit that the COVID-19 crisis has been tough. A survey found that the pandemic has created a bigger impact on the general and mental health of American men more than they admit. More than 3/4 of the respondents said they recognized how their stress levels shot up, while more than half said they felt alone and isolated during the lockdowns and quarantine.
If you felt your mental health take a dip in the past year and even as we entered 2021, help is available. There’s no shame in seeking help from mental health professionals, as well as from your family and friends who love you. There are also plenty of activities that can help, like diet and exercise, meditation and spirituality, and even some small feel-good projects.
While these activities will never take the place of a medical plan—especially if your condition calls for it—these simple activities may still be able to provide your mood a much-needed boost. Here are some small projects you can do to improve your mood and give your mental health a much-needed boost.
There’s nothing like following a precise recipe to keep your mind off of negative thoughts. Because baking requires focus and dedication, it leaves no room for anything else to occupy your mind while you’re doing it. Simultaneously, good scents can help trigger happy memories of when you spent precious memories at your grandmother’s kitchen or whenever your parents took you to buy some donuts.
You can start small and simple—the easiest ones to make are cookies and brownies. When you feel anxious, even doing something as simple as beating a batter mix or kneading dough can help release the stress out of your system.
There’s a reason why needlework and stitching are considered therapeutic; they help redirect our energy from stress and anxiety to focusing on something more productive. Instead of dwelling on the overwhelming thoughts and emotions, sitting down and stitching allows us to focus and reconnect with our minds and bodies.
If you’re someone who needs to do something with your hands, consider investing in some stitching and needlework materials to help you get started. Studio 180 Designs has many items and products for beginners; all you need to do is invest in the basic items like fabric, needles, cutting mat, sharp scissors, some clear instructions, and you can start right away. Don’t be discouraged if your first work doesn’t end up looking the way you envisioned; like everything in life, needlework takes a lot of practice to perfect.
Another activity that can help boost your mental health is taking care of houseplants or gardening. This is because even the passive act of being around nature and greenery can help reduce your feelings of fear, stress, sadness, and anger, as well as decreasing your blood pressure, muscle tension, and pulse rate. And that’s just being around nature! How much more if you’re constantly working hard to cultivate a garden?
If the idea of planting your garden seems intimidating, you can start small. Go to your local farmers’ market and look for some low-maintenance succulents as a first step. When it comes to taking care of plants, the whole point is to keep them alive no matter what. Once you’ve mastered the art, science, and discipline of taking care of cacti and other succulents, you can move on to small houseplants that are a little more high-maintenance and then eventually move on to cultivating your small garden at home.
Give gardening a chance. Not only is it good for your health and your home’s indoor air quality, but you will also be doing the earth a world of favors, too.
Another small activity that you can get into during the pandemic is photography. Don’t fall for the lie that you need to have the equipment and photography skills of an Instagram influencer to take good photos; even your smartphone has many features that can help you take pictures of things and people that matter to you.
If being in quarantine has left you feeling lonely and incredibly isolated, consider documenting your days through photography. Open your drapes, let the light in, and take photos of how the sun’s rays envelop your room. Take photos of your significant other while they’re laughing or doing mundane tasks like cooking—with their consent, of course. There’s nothing like taking photos of your everyday life to help you see your circumstance through a different lens.
You don’t need to go on fancy vacations or spend too much to feel better. With these small activities, you will already be doing your mind and heart a huge favor.