8 fun and quirky ways to reclaim your mental health, backed by science

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Self-care during chaotic times can feel like trying to fill a bathtub with a leaky bucket and broken drain—and while blindfolded. Gone are the days when relief can be mustered with a quick walk in the park or a simple mantra.

The pandemic is forcing us to be warriors, putting our wellness regimen to the test. Staying well feels like a full-time job and given the nature of what’s at hand, creative approaches — backed by science — are worthy of your consideration.

1. Worry less about what anyone thinks.

This is stellar advice in general and the guiding principle when attempting to enact unconventional strategies. It’s better to risk looking foolish than feeling bad.

2. Find a metaphor that captures what you’re going through.

Therapists are known for providing metaphors to help their patients explain phenomena, process emotions, and maneuver difficult circumstances. Creating abstractions can help us see from a different vantage point, enhance our ability to illustrate our emotions and experiences, and convey our needs.

3. Don’t shy away from humor.

If you can’t crack up at times, you might crack. Humor is seen as a protective factor toward resilience. Being silly and irreverent can provide needed diffusion of tensions. Need some inspiration? Grab some popcorn and rewatch one of your favorite comedies.

4. Embrace your weirdness.

To get started on this one, I recommend reading Little Weirds by Jenny Slate. Her candor, wit, and artistry not only transcend but, in my view, also provide solid inspiration for writing. Consider drafting a short piece about an aspect of yourself that is weirdly wonderful, in true Slate fashion.

5. Strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

Life is awkward, and the pandemic has dialed that up, with mask-wearing, distancing, and missing the majority of cues that we used to have access to when we could see actual human faces, and people weren’t cringing when they were within a 19-foot radius of us. Research shows that these micro-interactions can boost our mood and sense of belonging.

6. Break into childhood songs and sounds.

We all have them etched in our minds, and even if you don’t want to break them out in public, or on a Zoom call, these jingles and sounds can evoke positive memories and emotions that help provide a reprieve from all the seriousness of adult life.

7. Do something nice for someone.

Pick someone in your life to give a nice surprise. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture: a sticky note, funny meme, tiny act of service, affirmation, inside joke, and fun gag gifts all do the trick. Good surprises nourish our relationships and boost morale for both sender and receiver.

8. Create a mock commute.

For those working remotely, few miss the perils of traffic and swerving texters, but there’s something to be said about consistent routine. Routines, rituals, and structure are highly valuable in our efforts to stay calibrated. Consider ways to create a new routine, such as taking a walk before logging in, listening to uplifting music and podcasts, or putting into play any mini rituals that can be repeated daily to fuel and prime the brain.

Maintaining mental health is no easy feat at the best of times. Keeping our creative juices flowing can help us implement unconventional self-care strategies that nourish well-being and help us to avoid being pulverized by the nonstop stress at hand. By cultivating awe and in our everyday lives, we can positively contribute to well-being. Start by picking one that seems the most fun and doable, and build your repertoire from there.

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