10 reasons you don’t need a shrink to be happy… including how baking can relieve stress, knitting can beat depression and music can bring pleasure
- Baking or preparing dinner for a loved one increases happiness, a study found
- While knitting twice weekly eases stress and anxiety, according to a review
- Exploring greenery, a pastime known as ‘forest bathing’, can encourage calm
1 TRY AN EXERCISE ‘REBOOT’
Britons with mental health conditions could face delays of up to a year before accessing professional help, according to new research. But studies show that many enjoyable leisure activities are just as effective as psychotherapy or medication, especially if they involve exercise. This generates a surge of new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for emotion, say researchers at King’s College London.
2 COMPETITION IS THERAPY
Playing football boosts self-confidence and happiness. A 2017 Scottish study found that playing the beautiful game boosted mood and self-confidence in psychiatric patients due to the competitive element which, researchers say, encourages confidence.
3 KNITTING BEATS DEPRESSION
Knitting twice weekly eases stress, low mood and anxiety, according to a review of 15,000 people. It distracts us from mental or physical pain, evoking a state of relaxation that also lowers blood pressure.
Knitting (pictured) twice weekly eases stress, low mood and anxiety, according to a review of 15,000 people
4 YOU’RE HEALTHIER AMONG THE WEEDS
Studies show that gardening reduces suicidal thoughts in those with depression by up to 20 per cent.
5 FOREST THERAPY REDUCES ANXIETY
Exploring nearby greenery, a pastime known as ‘forest bathing’, encourages calm. National University of Taiwan researchers found just 48 hours in a forest reduced anxiety, exhaustion and hostility in 16 middle-aged women.
6 BOOST BODY CONFIDENCE IN AN ART CLASS
Life-drawing classes featuring nude models could improve amateur artists’ confidence by increasing body appreciation and decreasing body dissatisfaction. An Anglia Ruskin University study of 138 art students showed that life-drawing sessions helped them offset media depictions of ‘idealised’ bodies.
7 WALKING TO WORK STOPS YOU OVER-THINKING
Walking to work instead of driving lowers depression risk, say Stanford University researchers, whose study concluded that drivers regularly stuck in traffic for 90 minutes or more had greater incidence of worrying and rumination than pedestrians.
8 BAKING SOOTHES STRESS
Baking a cake or preparing dinner for a loved one increases happiness, a study of 650 people in Australia discovered. Baking is thought to be beneficial due to the ‘mindful’ actions involved, such as measuring ingredients, that distract from troubling thoughts.
Baking a cake (pictured) or preparing dinner for a loved one increases happiness, a study of 650 people in Australia discovered
9 A FURRY FRIEND MAKES YOU HAPPY
People who live alone have a better quality of life if they have a pet. A review of 17 studies in BMC Psychiatry found a surge in neural activity related to happiness in pet owners’ brains when they stroked or talked to the animals. It’s all down to oxytocin, the so-called ‘love hormone’ that promotes bonding.
10 MUSIC EQUALS PLEASURE
Joining a choir or listening to live music can arouse feelings of euphoria as it triggers the release of a ‘reward’ hormone in the brain known as dopamine. Young music fans who frequently listened to music they enjoyed were less likely than non-music fans to be diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to an Australian study.