4 alternative mental health tools you might have missed

You know the drill—someone mentions mental health, and images of therapist couches (therapy couches aren’t a real thing, by the way!), teary-eyed movie montages and pill bottles might waltz into your mind. And hey, I’m not here to bash those options. Therapy is fantastic; medications can be life-changing. I have used both extensively, and they have genuinely been so beneficial for my long-term mental health. But what if I told you there’s a whole universe of mental health boosters that are not just cost-effective but also, dare I say, fun? Because I probably don’t need to tell you that therapy and anti-depressants aren’t what you might typically consider fun.  Let’s dive into some unconventional (and occasionally quirky) ways to jazz up that mental well-being, whether these replace therapy and medications or complement them – That’s really up to you.

1. Meditation: The Ancient Brain Gym

I’m not asking you to levitate or spend years atop a mountain. Modern meditation is like a micro-vacation for your mind—no (emotional) baggage needed. There are seemingly endless studies on the huge benefits that meditation has on our mental and physical health. Meditation has been linked to a reduction in depression, anxiety, PTSD, stress, as well as fibromyalgia and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). There’s no need to break out the tie-dye and sit in the lotus position. Apps like Headspace or Calm can be your gateway and only take a few minutes. You’re essentially hitting the ‘reset’ button on your brain, giving it some much-needed downtime.

Many people try meditation but eventually give it up because they don’t see results quickly. It takes most people multiple (I’m talking 10+) meditation sessions to start seeing results, so don’t give up!

To get started, try this:

  1. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and close your eyes
  2. Breathe in for 4 seconds through your nose – fill those lungs up!
  3. Then breathe out your mouth for 8 seconds – As if you were blowing up a big balloon. 
  4. As you’re breathing out, allow your body to sink into the surface you’re on 
  5. Repeat this five times
  6. That’s it!
There is zero need for you to do this. Also, that looks kind of dangerous!
  1. Sensory Deprivation: Float Your Stress Away

Talking of meditation, have you ever wished you could just…float in a sea of nothingness? Away from your worries, to-do lists, and that little annoying vibrating rectangle bastard that we keep in our pockets. Enter floatation tanks, sometimes known as Sensory Deprivation Tanks. These are essentially baths where you float in heavily salted water, cocooned in darkness and silence. It’s like giving your senses a nap. The beauty of this is there is no agenda, no plan or schedule, no distractions. In fact, there’s nothing which is bliss. As someone with PTSD and currently being assessed for ADHD, it’s fair to say that my head is always ‘ON’. Regularly using the floatation tank has given me a blissful release from the mental white noise and even given my brain space to think of ideas or ways forward if I’ve been feeling stuck on something. If you’re thinking, “Pete, where should I try this?” – I’ve got you. Check out Time to Float. Based in Stafford, They’re absolute pros at this, ensuring you’re comfortable, relaxed, and ready to drift into tranquillity.

There are so many benefits to be found in sensory deprivation, and what you get from it varies from person to person and session to session. I’ve had a float session where I’ve just completed relaxed, my head empties of all worries and thoughts, and I come out feeling completely refreshed. I’ve also had floats where I’ve been able to mentally organise my life and come out with a huge sense of clarity and focus. And that’s before we get to the huge amount of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, decreased muscle tension, improved sleep and reduced anxiety.

  1. Journaling: The Paper Therapist

Once upon a time, journals were seen as the clandestine keepers of teenage secrets and unrequited crushes. But peel back the dated stereotype, and what you find is a tool of profound introspection and clarity. Writing is not the sole territory of wordsmiths churning out bestsellers or the angst-fuelled poetry of youth. In fact, the simple act of putting pen to paper can be an elixir for the mind.

Picture this: a blank canvas where you can freely spill your thoughts, emotions, musings, and even the mundane, like your impassioned views on why chocolate and peanut butter are the culinary world’s power couple. Every word and scribble acts as a release valve for the pent-up feelings that often cloud our minds.

There’s an unmatched freedom in journaling. No judgments, no unsolicited advice, no prying eyes—just an uninterrupted dialogue between you and the page. It’s a safe space where fears can be faced, dreams can be drafted, and reflections can take shape. Have you ever had a whirlwind of thoughts circling in your mind, only to find clarity once you’ve jotted them down? There is a good reason that some mental health professionals suggest that if (for whatever reason) therapy isn’t accessible to a person, then journaling is the next best thing.

  1. LEGO: Build Your Way to Calm

Now, this is where it gets personal. As an ex-engineer, there’s something innately satisfying about constructing things. And LEGO? That’s my thing. Particularly the LEGO Technic Cars. Following step-by-step instructions, hearing the satisfying ‘click’ of pieces fitting together, and then stepping back to admire your handiwork—it’s pure, unadulterated joy. It’s mindfulness in disguise. Each step you complete, every tiny piece you fit, draws you away from the chaos of life and into a world where everything just…fits.

Once considered the territory of children only, LEGO is now widely accepted as a great pastime for people of all ages. The only down-side is it can get expensive (At the time of writing, sets range from £30 to £700 (yes, really)), but websites like Rebrickable give you brilliant alternative builds, meaning a single LEGO set can be built, broken down and built again without it feeling tedious.

Now, here’s the clincher: while these methods might seem out-of-the-box, they’re rooted in the essence of well-being. Engaging in activities that calm the mind, challenge the brain, or simply offer a pause from our hectic lives is therapeutic. And these are just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a whole world of quirky, fun, and effective mental health boosters out there.

So, the next time you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, remember therapy and medications are often brilliant sources of recovery, but you can supplement these with other stuff. Sometimes, all you need is a quiet corner with a LEGO set or a date with your journal.