How engaging in meaningful activities can help with our mental well-being
Did you know that the United Nations established the International Day of Happiness in 2013 to recognise its importance? (1). Happiness is something that every one of us is consistently working on. The ability to keep mood levels steady can be difficult during this unprecedented time, with evidence showing how self-reported mental health and well-being worsened during the first national COVID-19 lockdown (2).
One way to tackle this issue is to add a new activity to your routine, something you can look forward to as you wind down after a stressful day. We suggest a list of 4 activities that can add a little spark of happiness to your day and increase your mental wellness.
Research has shown that “writing can reduce intrusive and avoidant thoughts” and “improve an individual’s working memory.” This allows us to “free up our cognitive resources for other mental activities, including coping more effectively with stress.” (3) End each day by being introspective, knowing that you don't have to carry the weight of your emotions on to the next day.
Writing suggestion: If you find journaling daunting, you can start with Futureme, a website that allows you to send a letter to your future self in which you can discuss your dreams, predictions, resolutions and more as a form of therapeutic writing.
A study examining volunteering habits and mental health found that compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who did “were more satisfied with their lives and rated overall better health.” Additionally, people who volunteered at least once a month “reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.” (4) In essence, the more we give back to others, the happier we may feel.
Volunteering suggestion: Due to Covid-19, many children have fallen behind with their reading. As a volunteer, you help a child learn to read so that they can succeed in school and beyond through Bookmark Reading.
3. Group meditation
Meditation can be hard, so doing it with friends or family means that you can hold each other accountable, staying dedicated and focussed. Research has found that those who had non-existing mental health issues, the mindfulness-based interventions had strong effects on psychological well-being, including the reduction of stress, negative emotions, and anxiety.” (5, 6)
4. Get creative
Expressing yourself through art may help heal mental and emotional wounds. Art can become a “therapeutic tool for adolescents, elderly, and vulnerable individuals.” (7) Therapy is not always accessible to all, so getting creative with art can provide us with the opportunity to find some relief and joy, a break from thinking about our issues. It can allow us to disconnect from the world and reconnect with ourselves.
Creative suggestions: If like us you’re not good with a paintbrush and don’t know where to start, painting by numbers can be a great stepping stone. You can do this all whilst listening to your favourite playlist or streaming your favourite tv show.
The good news is that this list is not extensive. Happiness and joy and what leads to these emotions is subjective. You can do whatever you find works best for you. To celebrate the Day of Happiness (20th of March), you can send us a picture of anything that sparks joy for you to our MindTheApp Instagram page to share with other readers!
International Day of Happiness 2021. (2020, September 20). National Awareness Days Calendar 2021. https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/international-day-of-happiness-2021/#:%7E:text=March%2020,the%20International%20Day%20of%20Happiness%3F&text=Since%202013%2C%20the%20United%20Nations,of%20people%20around%20the%20world
GOV.UK. (2020, September). COVID-19: Mental health and wellbeing surveillance report. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-mental-health-and-wellbeing-surveillance-report/2-important-findings-so-far
Carpenter, S. (2001, September). A new reason for keeping a diary. Monitor on Psychology, 32(8). https://www.apa.org/monitor/sep01
Hopper, E. (2020, July 3). How Volunteering Can Help Your Mental Health. Greater Good Magazine. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_volunteering_can_help_your_mental_health
Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: A Meta-Analysis. Mindfulness, 3(3), 174–189. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-012-0101-x
Walsh, K. M., Saab, B. J., & Farb, N. A. (2019). Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on Subjective Well-Being: Active randomized controlled trial and experience sampling study. JMIR Mental Health, 6(1), e10844. https://doi.org/10.2196/10844
Mastandrea, S., Fagioli, S., & Biasi, V. (2019). Art and psychological Well-Being: Linking the brain to the aesthetic emotion. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00739/full
Unaisah is a recent psychology graduate who believes in the importance of mental well-being and its impact on day-to-day living. An advocate for getting professional help, Unaisah wants to make the process of healing something we all strive for and achieve. Unaisah is a lover of books, art and a good cup of brew.