5 surprising and easy ways to boost mental health

When you’re feeling down, sometimes you need to think outside the square to rediscover a bit of positivity. Here are some fun and easy ways to get back your zest.

When grappling with mental health issues, there’s no one-size fits all approach.

Not everyone is able to bliss out to the soothing sounds of orca whales or kickstart the endorphins with a run.

So if the tried and tested methods aren’t working for you, here are five surprising ways to help shift your headspace.

1. Splash cold water on your face

Yes, you read that right.

Dunking your face in cold water a few times can reset the vagus nerve – a major player in regulating stress, according to counsellor Ruth Dwinger.

The vagus nerve, which is the longest cranial nerve, is described as a “secret weapon” in beating stress, sending messages of calm to our organs when in flight or fight mode.

“It runs from our brain right down to our abdomen and connects with multiple organs – and resetting it can be a really good thing to regulate our sympathetic nervous system,” Ruth says.

“Immersing your face in cold water four to five times works to activate the nerve and decrease your heart rate, ultimately helping you relax.”

2. Hum like a Buddhist monk

Or belt out the latest Ed Sheeran song in the shower.

Whatever your preference, vibrations in the throat also trigger the vagus nerve, so start singing, gargling and chanting your way to happiness!

“The vagus nerve is actually two nerves, even though they are referred to in the singular, and they run down either side of your throat,” Ruth says.

“Making noises and doing things like joining a choir or humming seem to reset it.

“Repeated slow, deep breaths also work the same way and can relieve feelings of anxiety and stress.”

3. LOL, ROFL, repeat

Laughter really is the best medicine.

Research shows it’s not just good for the mind  but also has positive spin-offs for our physical health – such as increased pain tolerance, relaxing our bodies and even a longer life.

If you are short on things to laugh about, try firing up a comedy on Netflix, joining a laughter club or calling a funny friend.

“Pushing yourself to laugh out loud when you are alone can feel ridiculous, but it sends endorphins racing around your body,” psychologist Christine Bagley-Jones says.

Studies suggest your body can’t distinguish between genuine or fake laughter – so let loose.

4. Aqua Zumba, anyone?

Aqua what? Take the South American aerobics class, add water, and you have a fun, energetic new way to work out.

If that doesn’t take your fancy, try another novel way to get a fitness high.

“Everyone knows exercise is really helpful for mental health, but if you don’t enjoy typical exercises, I’d encourage people to try something novel,” Christine says.

“Movement in fun ways like dancing or Aqua Zumba can also be beneficial in lifting your mood.

“And it’s a nice feeling dancing in the water!”

5. Plan an adventure

Getting out of a rut and ticking off a bucket list adventure item can be the perfect circuit-breaker.

Always wanted to tackle a hike? Dreaming of learning to sail – or kayaking along the Murray? Get planning!

“Sometimes it can be really helpful to plan something you wouldn’t ordinarily consider doing,” Christine says.

“Take time to gear up for it and throw yourself into the preparation – it gives you something to look forward to, and provides some inspiration to people who are feeling flat.”

Note: People who are really unwell may struggle with the motivation needed to benefit from these tips and seeking professional help is recommended.

World Mental Health day is on Sunday, October 10.

Written by Elissa Doherty.