11 Emotional Wellness Activities To Encourage Positive Mental Health

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mental health is discussed in the media more frequently than it may have been in the past. However, knowing what wellness activities can boost your mental health or reduce stress can still be difficult. If you’re looking for a daily routine to increase your well-being, there are several activities you can consider.

Boosting mental and emotional wellness can be tricky

What is the value of emotional wellness?

It could seem that emotional and mental health is the same. However, that’s not necessarily true. Mental health is shaped by your emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Many areas can impact a person’s mental health, including genetics and life experiences.

Emotional health is more about being in tune with your emotions. It’s about being able to recognize and handle the emotions that you have as they happen. So, while emotional health is not the same as mental health, there are ways that they connect. 

The value of caring about either type of health is that learning to maintain one can potentially boost the other. Focusing on your emotions and what brings you happiness may boost your emotional health, but it can also give you a more significant awareness of your mental health. 

11 emotional wellness activities for mental health

Below are 11 ways to prioritize emotional wellness and improve daily mental health. 

1. Make sleep a priority

Sleep is part of taking care of yourself and ensuring well-being. When you are not getting enough rest, it can be difficult to manage challenges in life that cause stress. It can also be difficult to function as you’d like; you may feel tired, irritable, unmotivated, or sad. You might also find you lack patience and struggle to handle stressful situations.

It’s recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. During these hours, brain activity is high as your mind works to recharge itself and rid itself of waste. Research shows rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep can significantly impact mental health symptoms and emotional reactivity. Too little sleep can leave you feeling sluggish and unable to tackle the day, but getting too much sleep can also produce challenges. If you’re struggling to get the rest you need at night or are sleeping too much, it can be helpful to talk with your doctor to discuss what underlying concerns might be involved.

2. Exercise

When you participate in physical activity, your brain releases hormones that boost your mood, potentially alleviating anxiety and depression. These endorphins can cause a more positive outlook on life and a sense of general well-being. Exercise can also help you sleep better at night. It has been linked with a boosted immune system, which can defend you from diseases and illness. 

Getting more exercise doesn’t mean you must head to the gym and work with a personal trainer. You can exercise at home by going for a walk, practicing yoga, or running. Start with an exercise that feels obtainable to you, and build up as you go. 

3. Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing is a strategy to use if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or need space. When you feel your stress level rise or experience difficult emotions, you may notice a physical response in your body. You might have an increased heart rate or blood pressure, illness, dizziness, and short, quick breaths.

Deep breathing exercises interrupt the cycle that stress can have on your body. Your heart rate and blood pressure may return to normal when you practice deep breathing. Practicing this exercise alongside meditation and mindfulness may also increase mental well-being. One way to practice deep breathing is through box breathing, which can be done through the following quick steps: 

  • Breathe in for five counts. 
  • Hold your breath for five counts.
  • Breathe out for six counts.
  • Hold your breath for six counts.
  • Repeat as many times as you want or until you feel a stress reduction. 

4. Volunteer your time

Volunteering your time to a cause or organization that helps others can improve your emotional health. It may help you shift your thoughts off yourself and onto someone else, potentially giving you a sense of purpose.

If you’re going through a difficult time, volunteering may give you the ability to gain a new perspective on the situation. It can also help you to get in better touch with your emotions as you see what other people are going through and become familiar with their stories. If you’re navigating many painful emotions, focusing on social kindness for a while can give your mind a break.

5. Spend time with friends

Spending time with friends can positively impact your emotional health, and many studies cite the mental and physical health benefits of social connection. Participating in activities you enjoy together can help you take the focus off challenging emotions that you might be experiencing and put your energy into positive and fun memories. 

Quality time with others can also remind you that you aren’t alone in managing your emotional wellness and finding ways to experience joy in life. Having a robust support system made up of loved ones can be a significant help as you work toward the best version of yourself. 


6. Take time to unplug

In an age of technology, you might feel constantly connected to the web. Constant social media use can be overwhelming and has been linked to higher stress levels. It can be challenging to feel mindful when notifications, vibrations, or ringtones constantly pull you away. 

For your emotional health, consider taking a break from technology occasionally. Whether you are getting out of the house and heading into nature or taking time to turn off all technology to read a book, unplugging can help you unwind and reconnect with your emotions. 

7. Journal 

If you struggle with processing your emotions, journaling regularly may be helpful. Writing about your day and what you’ve experienced can help you better understand the emotions you’re feeling. As you write, you may notice that you can go deeper into the situation and carry the lessons you learn throughout your day. It may help you identify patterns in your behavior and how to address them.  

If you’re uncomfortable with writing for long periods or experience pain in your hands, you might journal by creating a picture journal. Picture journals can be drawn in, or you can add collage pictures from magazines, stickers, or newspapers you come across during your week. You might also add poems you’ve found that you relate to. Some people feel that journaling must look “one way,” but making the process work for you can make you feel more excited about journaling daily. 

8. Make a wellness and gratitude list

Some people benefit from keeping a gratitude list. To start, list areas of your life that you’re thankful for. Looking back at this list during difficult times can be helpful. Note that gratitude doesn’t have to be toward others or significant situations to have a powerful effect. You can be grateful for seeing a beautiful flower, the smell of your hair after a shower, or the food you eat, as well. 

9. Get organized

Stress can have adverse impacts on your emotional health. If you feel you are constantly being pulled in different directions and are struggling to complete your daily tasks, consider planning for organization. Try a habit-organizing app if you struggle to develop or remember these tasks. 

When you are constantly on the go and feeling overwhelmed, it can be challenging to be in touch with your emotions. Taking steps to create a routine may allow more time for you to process your feelings and put labels on them. It may also reduce stress, which can improve your physical health, which can improve your mental health. 

10. Think about your thinking

Pay attention to your thoughts. If you often think negative thoughts and use negative self-talk, skills like cognitive restructuring can be beneficial. Cognitive restructuring involves positively reframing your thoughts. 

You can learn how to choose what you think about. For example, if you notice that you tend to respond to perceived failures by focusing on negative thoughts about yourself, you can purposely choose to replace those thoughts with positive or neutral thoughts. Try not to ignore or suppress your emotions or thoughts. Instead, allow them to pass while reframing the situation in your mind. 

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Boosting mental and emotional wellness can be tricky

11. Talk about your feelings

For many, a significant part of being emotionally healthy is feeling and understanding your feelings enough to put them into words. Taking the time to talk about and process your feelings can help you see which steps you can take to improve. If you often suppress your emotions, it may take some practice to identify and separate them from one another. However, communicating with others can make it easier to gain perspective and develop solutions that work for you.  

If you don’t have anyone you’re comfortable talking to about emotions in your life or would like a professional perspective, you may benefit from working with a licensed therapist. If you face barriers to treatment, you can also try convenient and beginner-friendly forms of therapy, like online counseling through a platform like BetterHelp.  

Online therapy is effective for a range of emotional health concerns. One study found that digital cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) was an effective treatment for anxiety and depression, which are common causes of emotional distress. The evidence points to the efficacy of online therapy and its potential for future use. 


If you’re looking to get your emotional wellness on track, there are lifestyle changes you can make that might help you along the path. Consider speaking with a licensed mental health professional to navigate these changes with support. With a robust support system and personal dedication, you may see quick improvements to your emotional, mental, and physical health.
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