Most of us have faced and dealt with unprecedented change to our daily lives in the past 9 months. Continuing to find healthy ways to deal with these challenges can feel daunting at times and you may be tempted to give in to your blues and frustrations. Fortunately even small doses of mentally healthy activities have been shown to help people feel better and develop more resilience, which is the key to long term mental health. Each one of our 5-minute mental health boosters is designed to quickly improve your mood and help you feel a bit more positive, no matter what challenges are coming your way.
5 Minutes of “Awwww…”
Did you know that watching cute kitten videos and looking at photos of your grandkids could boost your mental health and improve cognitive performance? A recent study done in Australia using “the world’s happiest animals,” found that 30 minutes of cute video watching had the power to lower stress levels and blood pressure while boosting positive moods. If you need an extra push to click the cute button, a Japanese study showed that seeing adorable pictures before taking on a challenging task can improve performance. Scientists have observed that watching cute animal or human baby images can trigger feelings of friendship, desire to give care and overall well-being and relaxation. So click off the stream of never ending bad news and try some cute animal videos for a change. Saying, “Awwww..” instead of “Oh no!” could do wonders for your mental health.
5 Minutes to a Goal
When it comes to mental toughness and resilience we can learn a lot from Navy Seals, who must endure the physically, emotionally and mentally exhausting “Hell Week” in order to become full fledged recruits. Many report using “micro goals” to help them not quit when the going gets especially tough. Micro goals are goals in the present moment that you can immediately achieve with some effort and focus. For a Navy Seal this might mean continuing to run through soft sand carrying a heavy weight for one more minute, while for you this could be following the steps on a new recipe you’ve been meaning to try, calling a friend to check in or doing 10 push-ups. Relationship goals have been shown to boost overall well-being more than achievement goals, so bake those cookies for someone you care about and you may get an extra boost. Focusing on a meaningful goal that we can achieve shifts our mindset to a positive, empowered attitude, helping to displace negative, less helpful thoughts. Achieving small goals has also been shown to stimulate dopamine production, which can further increase motivation. So set and get started on a goal today to boost your mental health. Achievement feels good!
5 Minute Walk
Walking is one of the quickest and most accessible ways to improve moods and combat ruminating (repetitive, negative thoughts). In one study people who walked for 5 minutes each hour—compared to remaining consecutively seated—improved their moods, energy levels and decreased their appetites. In another study, people who walked just 15 minutes weekly—while attempting to notice new and awe inspiring sights along the way—boosted mood, overall wellbeing and feelings of connectedness. Unfortunately, Covid-19 related quarantines have caused many of us to reduce or eliminate short walking bouts throughout the day that used to boost our moods as part of our daily routines. If you live in a walkable neighborhood a jaunt around the block is usually all it takes to get in 5 minutes of steps. Try adding these mini workouts back in by setting an alarm that dings every hour or two to make sure you are taking a break from sitting to get your heart, mind and legs moving. If you are unable to walk, substitute five minutes of any kind of physical activity you are able to do.
5 Minutes of Gratitude
There is a reason gratitude is part of most spiritual traditions and science is catching up in explaining the power of this ancient practice to improve our moods and overall well-being. Keeping a daily gratitude journal can increase feelings of happiness and satisfaction while decreasing negative thoughts and depressive feelings. A regular gratitude practice can increase mindfulness—by helping you notice the little and big things to be grateful for in your life—and feelings of connection to your family, friends and community. Being grateful can quickly remind you that even in the hardest of times, most of us still have a lot to be grateful for. Try spending 5 minutes writing down everything you are grateful for today or sending messages to friends and family letting them know how grateful you are for them. Soon, a boost to your mental health will be another good thing to be grateful for.
5 Minutes in nature
Long months of mostly staying at home have left many of us with a severe case of “nature deficit disorder.” Fortunately we can start to reverse this trend by spending even brief periods in natural settings which has been shown to reduce the stress response and improve moods. Research shows even 5 minutes is enough to improve positive emotions. Time in the natural world has also been shown to speed recovery from illness and improve physical well-being and induce positive transcendent emotions, such as wonder, awe and a feeling of connection to something bigger than self. You don’t have to travel to untouched wilderness to reap these benefits as urban parks, quiet gardens and even nature videos have been shown to have positive impacts on mood. Combining time in nature with a mood boosting walk may double the good feelings, really helping to kick start your mental healthiness.
Combine all 5 for a mental health kick start that takes less than 30 minutes.
Many of us plan for our physical health with scheduled workouts, healthy eating and regular check-ups, but we often fail to schedule mental health boosts into our daily routines. Try adding one of our 5 minute boosters into your daily routine for the next 7 days. Notice how you feel before and after the activity. Bonus points for noting this in a mental health journal!
The contents of this website, such as text, graphics, images, and other material are for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
If you are in crisis or you think you may have an emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. If you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to talk to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area at any time (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline). If you are located outside the United States, call your local emergency line immediately.