If you are one of millions of people who struggle with their mental health, you may have already been prescribed – or may be considering – medication and therapy. However, many medication-free methods effectively support traditional treatments and enhance your mental well-being. From engaging in physical activities to spending time with animals, we’re sharing a list of five evidence-based strategies that can help you foster your mental health and improve your quality of life.

1. Exercise

Physical activity has long been recognized as a potent tool for improving mental health. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, neurotransmitters known for their mood-enhancing effects. Additionally, regular exercise can alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce stress, and enhance self-esteem.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry (2018), individuals who engaged in regular exercise experienced significant reductions in symptoms of depression. The study concluded that physical activity can protect against the emergence of depression regardless of age and geographical region. Furthermore, another study published in 2018 found that even low levels of physical activity, such as walking, were associated with reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.

2. Outdoor Time

Spending time outdoors in nature has been linked to numerous mental health benefits. Nature exposure is associated with lower levels of stress, improved mood, and enhanced cognitive function. In a world where screens constantly surround us and demand our attention, the tranquility of natural environments can provide a break from the demands of everyday life and promote relaxation.

Research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (2021) suggests that spending time in green spaces is associated with reduced levels of perceived stress and improved mental well-being. The study found that exposure to nature, such as through nature walks, can lead to improved cognitive function, brain activity, blood pressure, mental health, physical activity, and sleep.

3. Volunteering

A 2017 study found that volunteering was associated with better health outcomes among the adult population. Another study followed a group of U.S. adults aged 50 years and older for four years to see how volunteering affected their emotional and physical health. The study found that participants who volunteered for more or less 100 hours a year had a lowered risk of mortality as well as an increased level of physical activity and positive psychosocial outcomes (such as higher optimism and sense of purpose and lowered depressive symptoms and loneliness) when compared to those who did not engage in any type of volunteer work.

In other words, engaging in acts of service through volunteering can have profound positive effects on mental health. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose, social connection, and opportunities for personal growth and fulfillment. Helping others can foster a sense of gratitude and perspective, leading to improved mental well-being by shifting your focus away from your own challenges and putting yourself in a service mindset that can help improve other people’s lives as well as your own.

4. Spending Time with Animals

Research suggests that interacting with animals can reduce levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and increase levels of oxytocin, a bonding hormone, which can lead to significant reductions in symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety. Interacting with animals, whether through pet ownership or animal-assisted therapy, can have therapeutic effects on mental health.

Pets provide companionship, unconditional love, and opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. If you don’t own a pet or are unsure about spending time with animals, consider trying animal-assisted therapy. Animal-assisted therapy involves structured interactions with trained animals (such as dogs and even horses) and has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

5. Finding a Hobby

Participation in leisure activities can be associated with higher levels of positive affect and life satisfaction. Additionally, research suggests that engaging in hobbies can buffer against stress and contribute to better overall physical health.

Engaging in hobbies and leisure activities that bring joy and fulfillment can promote mental well-being. Hobbies provide opportunities for creativity, self-expression, and mastery, leading to a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. Whether you would like to try a common hobby such as arts and crafts or gardening or would rather explore other pastimes such as gaming or learning to play an instrument, immersing oneself in a hobby can also serve as a distraction from negative thoughts and stressors. In addition, a hobby can also open the door for an individual to connect with others who share similar interests, thus promoting an increased sense of connection and community.

Combining Medication-Free Treatments

These are just a few examples of countless medication-free strategies you can use to support and improve your mental health. Trying all or even just one of these activities can also have a positive impact on those who are already receiving traditional medication-based treatment for a mental health issue, serving as a complement to their treatment.

Mental Health Treatment at Plus By APN

If you suffer from depression, anxiety, or another challenging mental health issue and have already tried therapy and medication and have not achieved significant results, consider Plus By APN’s cutting-edge integrative treatments. Our mental health professionals will customize a treatment plan just for you that could include revolutionary therapies such as Deep TMS and Ketamine-assisted therapy. These methods have been shown to help improve the quality of life of many patients, even those with treatment-resistant depression.

At APN, we use a whole-person treatment approach, understanding that treatment is more than just for your symptoms. Contact us at 424.644.6486 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about how you achieve relief from your symptoms.


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