Sometimes life is overwhelming.
Like right now, for instance. Right now everything is incredibly stressful, and the world feels kind of like it's conspiring against your happiness and comfort. But often—when you look for a solution to these problems—people will lay out how things like cleaning and organizing your entire home or running five miles a day can really improve your mood.
What are you talking about, Howie? "Just be healthy?!" You've solved nothing!
If it was easy to work up the motivation for that kind of undertaking, mental health wouldn't be an issue. But as things are, you might want to find some ways of improving your mental health that don't require you to already be mentally healthy. Here are some options for improving your mood and your outlook on the world that require minimal effort.
Watch Your Favorite Comedy
This one is pretty obvious, and it only works if you're in the shallow end of depression or anxiety, but if you're at a point where you're still able to laugh, the psychological benefits of a good chuckle are pretty significant. On top of that, a couple hours of distraction won't make your problems go away—let alone the world's—but it can at least give you a pleasant break from bleak thoughts.
If you don't have the energy to be proactive, sometimes that right kind of avoidance can help you start to maybe think about getting ready to do something.
Get a Healthy Meal Subscription
Don't you hate having to feed yourself all the time? Sure, food can be pretty tasty, but if you're not willing to put in the work to prep a healthy meal—or the funds to pay someone else to do it—you'll probably end up eating junk food, and there's a good chance that food comes with a heavy blend of indigestion and guilt. And that's not even getting to the ways poor nutrition can affect your mood on a chemical level.
While it's a good idea to keep some fruits and nuts around for a healthier snack, what happens when you run out? Do you make it all the way to the produce aisle of the grocery store, or does your hunger guide you to the nearest corner store for some chips and soda?
But there's a way to use your laziness to your advantage. If you don't have to go anywhere for a healthy, filling meal, with the nutrient's your body needs, then microwave meals and processed snacks lose some of their power over you. With a healthy meal delivery service like Splendid Spoon or Daily Harvest, you can get healthy, plant-based shakes, soups, and grain bowls delivered to your door on a weekly basis, for much cheaper than a restaurant.
Make it Harder to Access Social Media
Speaking of diet, there's another kind of consumption that is just as important to keep track of—media. The information we take in affects our mental health in the same(ish) way that the food we take in affects our physical health. And social media is basically junk food. It's highly addictive, way too accessible, and when we consume too much, we tend to feel terrible.
It's no secret that social media is bad for us. We should all know by now about the serious psychological damage that can result from scrolling through the highly edited versions of other people's perfect lives—which only look more enviable the more of our own lives are devoted to scrolling... So why do we subject ourselves to it?
Well, you can't really blame yourself. Those apps and sites are designed to tap into the reward center of the brain with intermittent reinforcement that keeps us coming back. It's the same principle that drives people to gamble. Not every post is a winner—something that makes us smile or gasp or scowl—but every post is a chance for one of those moments of genuine feeling, and that chance keeps us numbly scrolling.
So while you can always try to cut down on your social media use through sheer will power, that's not generally how addiction works. Instead—if we can stick with the gambling metaphor—there are ways of making it harder to go to the casino. For actual gambling addicts, that could mean adding a block to your credit card. For social media addicts, it could mean adding a timer or a site blocker to your browser, moving your apps to a hard to reach spot on your phone, or just deleting them altogether.
Still, as with any addiction, relapse is a part of the process, and shouldn't be treated as failure. Instead, you can set up your social media so that—even if you slip up and spend three hours scrolling—you won't end up feeling awful about yourself. All you need to do is...
Follow Uplifting and Supportive Accounts
The Internet is full of positive and cheerful messages...most of which just rub it in your face and make you feel inadequate for not being a ball of sunshine.
While blind positivity is often seen as the antidote for depression, anxiety, and other forms of emotional struggles, but that approach often only serves to make people who don't struggle feel accomplished for being happy. There's no point in telling someone whose having a hard time to just "stay positive" and "look on the bright side"—if they could, they would.
Instead, what can be actually helpful is messages of solidarity, encouragement, and support. Sometimes you need to be told that you're enough. Whether that means sympathetic cartoon animals, classic Mr. Rogers quotes, or general life advice from mental health professionals, you can make your feed a more uplifting experience.
Be Lazy Outside
Do you ever feel like being lazy isn't all that relaxing? Holed up inside, we often end up chasing anxieties around in a stuffy, dark room, instead of unwinding from life's stresses. The good news is, there's a place where relaxing just works better, and it's free and open to everyone—as long as you remember to put on some pants. It's a magical place called "outside."
While our anxieties can often keep us from wanting to step out our front doors, the fresh air, sunlight, and greenery that can be found outside are massively therapeutic. If you need to take your bubble of privacy with you, you can always plug in some headphones and crank up your favorite relaxing music.
Best of all, you don't need to do anything to make a trip outside worthwhile. Just sitting on a park bench or laying in a patch of grass—soaking up the vitamin D, the scenery, and the sweet air—is productive in and of itself. You're making yourself healthier just by being there.
Get Some (Fake) Plants
But hey, if you live in the middle of a concrete desert—with no green spaces nearby—or you're just not ready for the outside world, no one can make you leave the security of your home. Fortunately, houseplants exist, and can bring the better air quality and the soothing green tones of the outside world indoors.
They also give you something to nurture and "bond" with, with much lower stakes than a pet. Cactuses and succulents are great, hardy plants for getting started. But if even that is a little too much commitment... Well, you can still get those soothing green tones with a couple fake houseplants. There are a lot of affordable options online, and all the require is an occasional dusting.
Cut Yourself Some Slack
This is the most important item on this list. With the amount of energy a lot of us put into beating ourselves up over laziness or a lack of productivity, we could actually get something done—at least some dishes or a load of laundry.
So instead of lying in bed, piling judgment on yourself like the bad version of a weighted blanket, it's worth learning how to let those negative thoughts go. Trying to fight those thoughts is a losing battle. They're not "true" or "false" they're just thoughts with a negative bent. But if you learn how to let them, they will do what all thoughts do: drift by.
Meditation is one great tool for developing that skill. And while you might think of a yogi chanting in a perfect pose, there's nothing to stop you from meditating while lying in your bed. All you have to do is close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and observe the activity and sensations of your mind and your body, without judgment or attachment. "Oh hey, there's an insecure thought about the way I look...and there it goes."
While that's certainly easier said than done, it's a skill that anyone can develop, and if you get into the habit of closing your eyes and practicing mindfulness when the negativity starts creeping in, you might fend that you expend a lot less energy on beating yourself up.
So, hey. maybe you don't have the energy to chase down a "runner's high" or to throw out everything you own that doesn't "spark joy" (which might just be everything you own...), but at least you can take some simple, lazy measures to improve your state of mind.