13 Tiny Things Pretty Much Anyone Can Do To Improve Their Emotional Health

Sometimes it's the smallest things that have the longest-lasting positive impacts.

woman sitting in water, outside in nature while reading a book Aline Fortuna | Canva

I have struggled with depression for my entire life, and for a long time, I didn’t recognize what it was. When I was younger, we never talked about depression, or anxiety, or any of the other myriad of mental health challenges so many of us struggle with.

As a result, I had no idea what I could do to manage my mood other than with booze, drugs and boys. All three did an excellent job at helping me feel better  —for a few moments at least. Then, as I was coming down, everything would become worse. Sound familiar?


Since I was diagnosed with depression in 2007, I have developed better coping skills by finding truly tiny things to make a big difference i managing my depressive feelings. 

Of course, depression and anxiety are both potentially serious conditions and you should consult with a healthcare provider if and when needed. In the meantime, or in addition to the work you do with a qualfied professional, these thirteen small acts may help you feel better — or at least lead you to the small, daily habits that help you reclaim your wellness.


A few tiny things people can do help improve their health — emotional and otherwise

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1. Listen to podcasts.

One of the most important elements of keeping my depression at bay is managing my thoughts.

My thoughts are often my worst enemy when I am depressed. Those thoughts tell me what a loser I am and how hopeless I feel. My memories constantly review the negative events from. my past and make me feel bad about things I have said and done over the years. They can drive me to bed to continue feeling horrible about myself.

To manage those thoughts, I keep my mind busy.

TV has always been my go-to for keeping those thoughts at bay, but recently I have started to listen to podcasts. Not only do they silence those negative thoughts, but they also educate me, which feels much way better than coming down off of alcohol.


I don’t listen to podcasts about depression or how to improve my life because I feel like they focus me on my mood instead of distracting me from it. Instead, I listen to podcasts about movies, “You Are Good” and women, “History Chicks” and a great one called “You’re Wrong About” which reexamines historical events and analyzes the truth behind the stories.

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2. Take your book outside.

Reading is another thing I like to do to keep my mind busy when it is sabotaging my efforts to get out of my depression. Again, I don’t read self-help books. I read wonderful, trashy novels, things to distract and entertain me.

One of my favorites is “The Midnight Library” a book that pushes back on the reality behind regrets and has a fabulous female protagonist.


If I can, I take my book outside and read it in the park or in my hammock. By getting outside, I add the benefit of sunshine, something proven to improve moods. When I can’t get outside, I read under my full spectrum light, a very effective sun substitute that gives the same effects.

So, take some time and get outside with your book. You will be glad you did.

3. Take a warm bath.

A regular warm bath with Epsom salts if possible can help ease the aches and pains we get while living our lives, these aches and pains that can bring us down. Epsom salts can also increase the magnesium levels in the body, the reduction of which can be caused by stress.

This is something I do as much as I possibly can. I add lavender or eucalyptus Epsom salts and I soak. I bring my book along and have the added benefit of reading and shutting down my brain by doing so.


4. Look for ways to volunteer.

Volunteering is another thing I do regularly. For years I have worked in a soup kitchen on Thursdays and for the past decade I have volunteered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Volunteering helps with two things. The first is that giving back to other people naturally increases dopamine, that feel good chemical that courses through our body when we do something good. That feel good chemical is an excellent way to lift our mood.

The second reason volunteering helps is because it gets me out of the house. I do tend to isolate when I am depressed and taking a shower, getting out of the house and interacting with people is an excellent anti-depressant.

Find someplace you can volunteer, somewhere you have a genuine interest. Many of my clients find working at an animal shelter, interacting with dogs and cats, can help them in a big way.


5. Try something new.

This summer, after 30 years, I returned to school. I have decided to pursue a master’s degree in history. And it has been one of the best decisions of my life. Why? Because by doing so I am using a different part of my brain, a part of my brain that hasn’t worked for years.

Doing something new is a key way to manage one’s depression. Not only using a different part of your brain but experiencing things that you have never experienced before can cause dopamine to flood your body and make you feel better.

6. Try forest bathing.

Forest bathing is an idea I never knew about before I found MHA but it is something I have heard is remarkably helpful for managing depressive symptoms.

Forest bathing, also known as Shinrin-Yoku, is an ancient Japanese custom. It is involves spending time in nature, hiking, sitting, standing and/or deep breathing, being conscious of your senses and the world around you. The amount of time to spend in the woods varies for everyone but experts say that as little as 15 minutes a day can make a big difference.


You don’t have to live in the country to forest bathe. A park can render the same effects. It’s all about being outside in nature, appreciating its beauty and internalizing it to increase those feel good chemicals in your body.

7. Eat dark chocolate.

This isn’t a tough one is it? I am guessing that you would be happy to do this one right now.

According to research, dark chocolate contains flavonoids, caffeine and theobromine, all things that work together to improve mental health.

So, keep a bowl of dark chocolates close and indulge (within moderation) when you feel the need.

8. Go meet a friend.

For many people who are depressed isolate. The prospect of going out in the world and interacting with people is more than they can bear and so they don’t. And I get that.


Instead of getting out of the house and trying to interact with many people, interact with one. A friend. Someone who makes you laugh and feel seen.

Spending time with people who love you and support you and who let you know they will always be there for you is one of the most potent anti-depressants.

I know the prospect is daunting but pick up your phone right now and make a date to meet a friend, doing something that makes you happy.

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9. Do some yoga or meditation.

Yoga and meditation have been practiced for centuries as a means to manage one’s mental health.


Both of these practices serve multiple purposes. The first is they help distract your brain, much like listening to a podcast or reading. The second is they help improve breathing. When done consciously, breathing can be very helpful with mental health management. Thirdly, yoga and meditation can make your body strong, strength can make you feel really good about yourself.

I know that yoga and meditation might be intimidating but try to get yourself out there and try one or both. You will be glad you did.

10. Make fun a priority.

So many things on this list are about increasing those feel good chemicals and this is one of them.

When we are struggling with depression, fun is something that can be elusive. The idea of getting off the coach and participating in life can be overwhelming, but I would encourage you to do whatever you can to have fun.


For me, one of my favorite things to do is to watch movies and needlepoint. When I am depressed, this makes a huge difference for me and it is very low impact. Some people like to dance or hike or take an art class. All things that bring them joy.

So, what is fun for you? If getting out and doing things in the world is daunting right now, find something fun you can do at home, something that might very well pull you out of your depressed mood.

11. Declutter your space.

Look around your space right now. How does it make you feel? Does it make you feel calm or happy or does it cause you stress?

If your space causes you stress, I encourage you to try to declutter, to go through your things, to organize and maybe even pitch things that you no longer use.


You don’t have to clean your whole space – unless you want to. A client of mine was really struggling and she found that just clearing off her desk space helped lift her spirits. When she sat down to use it or walked by it during the day, it gave her a sense of calmness that made a big difference with her moods.

12. Wear something fun.

Cowboy boots. Cowboy boots are what I always put on when I am feeling blue.

Why? Because they make me feel good. They make me feel sexy. When I walk in them, I actually strut, which makes me feel strong.


Is there something in your wardrobe that makes you feel good? Put it on and see the difference.

DO NOT put on that old, comfy sweatshirt that you settle into when you are feeling blue. Put that on the shelf and pull out something that will help you strut your stuff!

13. Smile, Yawn, Laugh

The Lehigh Center for Clinical Research has many recommendations for things to do to manage your mental health. The one I like best was to smile, yawn and laugh.


Smiling can lower your blood pressure and can reduce stress. The act of smiling has also been proven to actually improve your mood and increase happy thoughts. I know when my kids were little, smiling at them was a key to helping me get through my day.


Yawning helps cool down the brain and make you feel calm. When those negative tapes are running through your head, bringing you down, a yawn can help you manage those tapes and ease your depression.

Laughing, like smiling, can reduce your anxiety levels which will only help you manage your moods and pull you out of your depression.

So, as you can see, there are little things that you can do every day to help manage your mental health. Try them and see how they work for you.

All of this being said, if you find that your depression and anxiety is not being eased by the little things, it might be time to get some help. Reach out to your primary care doctor and they can help you with your depression before it overwhelms you. It might seem intimidating but it can make a world of difference!


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Mitzi Bockmann is a New York City-based Certified Life Coach who believes everybody has the right to be happy.