Therapy is not cheap. What if you could enjoy free therapeutic activities? What if these exercises aided in overall mental health? One aspect of counseling is reframing a pervasive, gloomy outlook to a more cheery vantage. Try these four ideas to advance in that direction – of rediscovering joy and embracing the wonders of life, every day.
When we are “all in our feels,” those emotions create physiological energy. Neurologically, the amygdala (responsible for flight, fight, or freeze) is engaged, triggering the brain to produce cortisol and adrenaline. This excess physical energy or power needs a release!
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (2021) defines a tantrum as “brief episodes of vocal and sometimes physical outbursts [ ] in response to frustration, anger, or distress.” A tantruming expression could be as simple as stamping feet and waving fists. If the occasion calls for it (and you can do it safely), go all out with yowls and yelps. Writhe on the floor and pound the ground or kick the air. Keep your physical body safe and ensure property, pets, or people are safe from harm. It might be best to tantrum in private or in the presence of a therapist who has provided a safe space to express unpleasant emotions in this way.
Next time you have an unpleasant customer service interaction or have to deal with an unholy wait time for a refund, try tantruming. If you do, please share below with a comment about how the exercise worked for you.
Have you ever visited a gas station bathroom and gotten wet from water on the counter? Yuck. What could be worse than stranger water? Stranger water getting on the chin of your little kid who is not yet tall enough to avoid the stranger water? Worse. Yuck.
A 2014 study showed positive benefits for givers and receivers of Pay It Forward random acts of kindness (Pressman et al.). So, wipe those counters down . . . for yourself and the people coming to use the sink after you.
Free therapy is more than a space to vent or an empathetic ear. Free therapy is actively engaging in the production of a positive surrounding. Trashing and wiping are two different approaches in separate arenas. Wiping is about a quick, considerate action in a shared space. Trashing is all about keeping your space clear, literally.
The next time you go to a gas station to fill your vehicle with gas, take ten minutes of time to clean out your vehicle. Be sure to be safe and follow any posted guidelines. There are some warnings about returning inside your vehicle while actively pumping gas. Typically, I trash when someone else is driving. An alternative to trashing while pumping gas is when you stop at a commercial business. Before you enter, quickly survey the car, find and fill a receptacle (or use a tiny car trash can) to grab any loose receipts, food, or stray items you no longer use or need. Trash those items and embrace the free therapeutic actions.
Although no studies have been undertaken to prove that LOLing is a superior title to laughter therapy, surveys would likely indicate such. Still, studies do show laughing, whether authenticate or pretend, produces stress and anxiety-reducing hormones (Akimbekov & Razzaque, 2021; Kramer & Leitao, 2023). How does LOLing work? Simple. Pretend you have a phone in your pocket. Oh, do you have a phone in your pocket? Pretend it is ringing. Answer the phone and pretend someone called to tell you the funniest joke you have heard. LOL. And then laugh out loudly more. Turn to a nearby human. (You don’t have to pretend this time). LOL to them. See if they will accept and participate in your contagious laughter, then find something new to laugh about. Go ahead, and as the former Fresh Prince of Belair would sing, get jiggy wit it! Throw some shoulder in or good ole knee slappin’. Now you’ve got the hang of LOLing!
Did you try any of these free therapeutic activities? Share how they worked for you or what variations you enjoyed below in the comments section.
If you or someone you know needs professional mental health support to reduce anxiety and manage stress, professionals at Joyful Journeys Counseling are skilled at working with clients through all stages of life. We specialize in treating a variety of anxiety disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Specific Phobias, school fears, Panic Disorders, Social Anxiety, and Separation Anxiety. Reach out today for a free consultation.
Sources (In order of appearance)
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. (2021, October). Temper Tantrums. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Temper_Tantrums-136.aspx?WebsiteKey=a2785385-0ccf-4047-b76a-64b4094ae07f#:~:text=Temper%20tantrums%20are%20brief%20episodes,or%20developing%20a%20mild%20illness.
Pressman, S. D., Kraft, T. L., & Cross, M. P. (2014). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay-it-forward’ style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10(4), 293-302. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2014.965269
Akimbekov, N. S., & Razzaque, M. S. (2021). Laughter therapy: A humor-induced hormonal intervention to reduce stress and anxiety. Current research in physiology, 4, 135–138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crphys.2021.04.002
Kramer, C. K., & Leitao, C. B. (2023). Laughter as medicine: A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies evaluating the impact of spontaneous laughter on cortisol levels. PloS one, 18(5), e0286260. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0286260
About the Author
Jennifer Lytle is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who runs a private practice in Central Texas. With her vast experience as a school counselor, she advocates for accessible, high-quality mental health care for children and adolescents. Jennifer is particularly passionate about educating parents to support children struggling with anxiety and offers parent coaching, family therapy, and individual treatment for anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She is confident in helping clients navigate difficult situations and find manageable coping skills they need to thrive.