Anyone who has sat on a comfortable sofa in front of a therapist has probably felt a lot of relief at the end of the session. The only problem? Afterward, you are left with a hefty bill to pay. While the effectiveness of that time spent with an expert has proven to be good, sometimes you can save money and find your happy place, all by trying some totally free mind tricks from the comfort of your home. Here are 17 mind tricks or strategies you can employ if you can’t afford therapy.

Mental tricks you can use if you can’t afford therapy

Here are the best ones to start with.

To laugh

You can make a joke, watch funny videos on YouTube, or go to the latest comedy movie at the theater. Whatever the case, something as simple as making yourself laugh will help improve your mood, not to mention lessen anxiety and depression over time. And most of the time it doesn’t even cost a penny.

Write it

Sure, talking to a therapist is helpful, but one form of therapy that is totally free nonetheless is to alter your thinking through journaling. A form of therapeutic writing, called free writing, simply requires writing anything and everything on your mind, without worrying about hiding yourself or being embarrassed by anything that gets on paper. You can burn it when you’re done if you want, but the process itself is incredibly healing.

Turn your negatives into positives

Now, it is not easy to alter your perception from something negative to something more positive. One mental trick you can use is to simply reframe those thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I’m never going to get out of this routine I’m in,” alter the thinking by finding ways to break out of your routine. It’s easier to get yourself out of negativity than you think.

To meditate

Is there a better mental strategy than meditation ? Meditation offers you one of the best “mind tricks ” (if the word is allowed) to help you get out of that state. Many people who meditate on a daily basis say it’s their therapy – that time sitting quietly and breathing deeply can help calm your mind and even prevent stressors in your life from affecting you physically. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your mental well-being, and you only need to do it 10 minutes a day.

Focus on the present

It’s easy to get stuck and stressed out about everything that’s going on in your life, even in the next few months. Here’s the deal, though: if you’re constantly worrying about the future, you’ll never be able to relax and enjoy your life in the moment. Do what you need to do, but remember that you are not a superhero – don’t forget to take the time to focus on the present as well.

Forget the worst case scenario

When you’re feeling depressed, it’s normal to “catastrophize,” the colloquial term for what the mental health community calls “cognitive distortion” – you always have your mind at worst. Instead, focus on the positives. The mind tends to make things much worse than they really are, and working on whatever frustrates you or holds you back from the positives will help you eliminate those negative thoughts and allow you to act.

Press the reset button

One of the best mental tricks and strategies is to start from scratch . It would be great to have a real “reset” button in life where you can have a clean slate when you need it. Well, it may not be a physical thing that you can press, but you can have a mental reset button. If you’re not feeling better, whether you’re sad, upset, overwhelmed, upset or whatever, imagine that button and press it, take a few deep breaths and allow yourself to move on.

Talk to yourself

People congratulate others all the time, so why not give yourself some congratulations in your own way from time to time? You will always be your biggest cheerleader and also your biggest critic. So instead of getting down, talk throughout the day noting down the things you love about yourself, what you are proud of, what you are good at, whatever it is.

Talk to a stranger

Sometimes you just need to get things off your chest. Instead of paying large sums of money for a therapist, why not chat with a stranger? Whether it’s a bartender, a stylist, or a cashier at the grocery store, don’t be afraid to take a few minutes to talk. They might look weird, but hey, you’ll probably never see them again, and you just got someone to listen to your problems for free. It is a guaranteed win.

Find your “mantra”

Repeating a word or phrase over and over, either out loud or silently, may seem a bit crazy, but mantras can tangibly improve your mental health, helping to combat stress and decrease negative thoughts. While you are meditating, repeating a mantra can ensure that your mind stays on track no matter how many times you try to wander, even if it is as simple as repeating the classic “Om”.

Breathe deeply

Breathing is something you never think about, it is something your body does naturally. If you are tired and you need something to calm your brain, just slow your breathing. Breathing exercises are used in relaxation therapy all the time, and it only takes a few steps to get your fix. Sit or lie down, put one hand on your belly, inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. After taking a handful of breaths, you will feel more relaxed, you will have less tension in your body, and you will notice that the tension slowly recedes.

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Take a break

Young children are not the only ones who need a break every so often, adults can use them too. If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by something, whether it’s at work or in your personal life, give yourself five minutes to calm down. Rest is one of the best strategies to restart your body and therefore your mind. Go somewhere where you can think and breathe without interruption, even if that’s just a bathroom stop at work, and that much-needed mental break will make you feel better when you come back to reality.

An excellent brain trick: color a little

Instead of saying things, color them. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that creative art, such as coloring, is incredibly therapeutic for adults and helps eliminate stress and anxiety. The relaxation you get from grabbing a few crayons and turning your blank page from nude to rainbow can be the mindless activity you need to give your brain a break.

Test affirmations

People can compliment you on all they want, but you won’t believe them until you start believing in yourself. And that’s where the daily affirmations come in. The technique helps you create a positive self-image and combat negative thoughts, all by saying a phrase out loud to yourself in the mirror. After days, repeat everything from “I’m smart, kind, and have an amazing life” to “I can do anything I put my mind to,” or whatever you have to remember, you’ll start to believe it.

Call your mom

It cannot be said at all that talking to mom falls into the category of best mental tricks to make you feel better , because who is a better therapist than your own mother, brother or best friend? And that’s no trick! No matter who you trust your thoughts, call them when you need to talk. Even just a 10 minute talk to express your frustrations or reveal your inner doubts, and get guidance from someone you love and respect, will give you some relief and help you solve your problems.

Focus on a happy place

Are you feeling stressed? Then you probably need a little break. To give your brain a break, close your eyes and focus on one thing: your happy place. Maybe it’s a beach, your favorite bench on your favorite path, or the reading corner at your favorite bookstore. After spending a few minutes visualizing yourself in that relaxing atmosphere, you will be much calmer and able to think clearly again.

One of the best strategies: listening to soothing sounds

If there’s a lot on your head and you just need to tune out for a while, grab your phone and play some soothing sounds, be it ocean waves, rain, singing birds, whatever makes you feel totally at ease. After five minutes of listening with your eyes closed, you will feel totally recharged and ready to start your day.

Dr. Eric Jackson

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses. He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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