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31 Top Mental Health Activities for the Workplace

Participating in mental health activities can help reduce stress in the workplace and improve physical health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month but there are tons of easy, year-round activities you can incorporate into your workplace to help spread mental health awareness, improve overall well-being and a healthy mindset.

Most people will either experience, or be affected by, some form of a mental health challenge at one point in their lives. Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, don’t necessarily have to be extreme to carry a harmful or adverse impact.

Common life stresses can easily pile up and negatively affect your personal and professional life quite fast.  And one of the biggest challenges can be pausing long enough to try and distract, redirect, or compose yourself in a meaningful way that leaves you feeling refreshed or uplifted.

How to find time to improve your mental health

Over a lifetime, workers spend an astounding 90,000 hours on the job according to Happiness in the Workplace . Since we spend so much time at work, finding time to incorporate activities that support positive mental health into the workday is a great way to help employees and team members improve their overall mental well-being.

The benefits of participating in activities to promote better mental health

While this is an excellent way for organizations to show they care about their employees’ mental health, the additional benefits of focusing on the importance of mental wellbeing may include:

  •          A positive impact on team members’ physical health
  •          Increased employee morale
  •         A reduction of work-related stress
  •          A higher likelihood to seek help when needed 
  •         Increased employee engagement

Investing in workplace wellbeing has lasting value and helps to build a caring, safe company culture.

31 Top Mental Health Activities for the Workplace

1. Schedule onsite chair massages

Reach out to a local massage school and arrange for their students to provide brief chair massages throughout the workday.  According to the Mayo Clinic, massage can be an effective way to help lower stress levels and feelings of anxiety.  Massage helps to lower your cortisol levels, a hormone produced by your body when it’s stressed.  It also releases serotonin, sometimes referred to as the “happy chemical,” which helps to fight off pain and reduce feelings of anxiety or sadness.

2. Schedule an onsite yoga day

Engage with a local gym or yoga studio and schedule an instructor to hold an onsite beginner yoga class.  Physicians across the world agree the benefits of yoga are far reaching, bringing value to both your physical health and mental wellbeing.  Dr. Natalie Nevins, of the American Osteopathic Association, shares that regular yoga practice can increase mental clarity and calmness while also relieving chronic stress patterns and relaxing the mind.    

3. Spread gratitude day

Encourage acts of kindness by holding a secret Santa type of drawing where each team member is secretly assigned to another team member.  Team members then write out a card to their assigned person and highlight why they are grateful for them being on the team. 

4. Create a fitness/movement challenge

As noted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), regular exercise can help improve your mood by reducing feelings of stress and depression.  Inspire your team to move more by mixing in physical activity and creating a fun, simple fitness competition.  Challenges can take many forms depending on your environment but can easily be done with remote teams or onsite teams.  Some popular ideas include walking or step count challenges, a bike to work challenge (remote workers can also participate by biking in the mornings before logging on), 64oz of water a day challenge or tracking minutes of exercise per day challenges.

5. Organize a group lunch

Schedule a day when the entire team unplugs from work and enjoys lunch together.  Some ideas include ordering in from a healthy restaurant, doing an office potluck or just brown bagging.  The important thing is to bring everyone together and encourage socialization.  If the weather is nice, bring the lunch bunch outside and get some fresh air.  Remote teams can participate virtually as well! 

6. Host a guest speaker to speak about mental health and wellness over morning coffee

Invite local mental health professionals in to have morning coffee with the team.  Ask them to focus on providing effective ways for managing stress or stress reduction as well as best practices to improve work-life balance.

7. Share mental health screening tools

Screening tools can be used as a first step in unlocking awareness of certain mental health conditions.  Share information about mental health screening tools with your staff in a variety of ways – via newsletters, on bulletin boards, in other public spaces such as break rooms or by creating a mental wellness information channel on Slack.  If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at your organization, find out what screening resources are available.  Mental Health America has an entire portfolio of online, free mental health screenings that can be taken confidentially.

8. Wellness gift exchange

Organize a simple wellness gift exchange by asking staff members to purchase a small gift (under a certain dollar amount) to promote good mental health.  Some good things to include are stress balls, sleep masks, essential oils, self-help books, journals, candles or even a small plant.  You can set this up as a secret Santa type of event or have everyone wrap the items, place them on a table and let people pick them out randomly.  It’s a great way to engage your team members in a wellness centered event.

9. Interactive bulletin boards

Get the staff actively involved in good mental health practices! Hang a bulletin board with prompts such as “What are you grateful for today?” or “My favorite way to relieve stress is…” in a highly trafficked area.  Leave a stack of notecards and pens adjacent on a small table for people to write their thoughts and tack them up on the board. 

10. Volunteer as a team

One of the best ways to boost your mental health is to volunteer.  As noted by Dr. Susan Albers, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, volunteering has been shown to decrease stress levels, depression, anxiety and increase your overall life satisfaction.  Participating in events to help others triggers the reward center of your brain, which then releases chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins.  And this is why people tend to feel so good after volunteering! Organize your team to volunteer at a local organization. You might be able to tie it into your organization’s mission as well!

11. Art therapy lunch and learn

Invite a local art therapist to host an art session over lunch where staff members can learn more about the mental health benefits of creating art while making a creation of their own.  For many years the practice of creating or analyzing art through art therapy has been utilized by mental health professionals around the world.  Art therapy can involve a variety of activities such as drawing, painting, coloring, and sculpting to name a few.

12. Cozy up a common space

Pick a space or room and designate it as a relaxation or meditation room.  Set it up with wellness items such as a yoga mat, diffuser, spa music, coloring books, bean bags and a comfortable chair.  Allow team members to visit the room during the day and recharge.  Encourage remote employees to set up their own space at home and allow them to take a zen break during the workday.

13. Start a book club or book exchange

Reading brings many benefits and can be an effective way to help decrease stress. In fact, a University of Sussex study found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%, making it one of the most impactful activities in terms of relaxation.  Promote socialization and mental wellbeing by organizing a book club in the workplace.  Encourage remote employees to join as well or participate in a book exchange.

14. Host an outdoor meeting

Change up the scenery. Reset your mind by getting everyone outside and breathing in fresh air. A 2016 Neilson Total Audience Report noted that most Americans rack up as much as 10 hours of screen time per day. There is also increasing evidence to support nature’s positive effect on increasing happiness and decreasing mental stress. Incorporating a few outdoor meetings during the work week is an easy way and a great idea to help people break away from the tether of their screens, desks, or conference tables.  Hit up the local park and combine it with a team building physical activity for an extra mood boosting experience.

15. Scheduled stretch breaks

Remaining in the same position for hours on end can create muscle tension.  Encourage your team members, including remote employees, to take multiple 2-minute stretch breaks throughout the day.  Better yet, start your meetings out with a quick stretch break!  There are simple stretching exercises that can even be done right at your desk.

16. Create an indoor or outdoor garden

Engage the team in starting a group garden.  This can be anything from a few simple indoor potted plants to a more elaborate outdoor vegetable or cut flower garden.  The peaceful activity of tending to a garden has shown to boost mental wellness by improving mood and even increasing self-esteem and self-worth.

17. Organize a team building activity

Reduce stress and promote a more positive work environment by organizing a team building exercise for your group.  Participating in team building activities increases socialization and can help to combat feelings of social isolation or loneliness.  Team building can also surface a greater sense of purpose for some individuals.

18. Do an ergonomic check

Poor ergonomics can lead to pain and discomfort, which negatively impact physical and mental wellbeing.  Schedule a local physical therapist to visit your workplace and perform an ergonomic assessment for your team members. 

19. Start a walking club

Walking may be one of the best self-care practices ever.  With benefits lining the columns of both physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing, walking helps to improve mood, increase your energy, reduce stress levels, improve the quality of your sleep, and promote overall healthier habits.  While an outdoor walk may provide the greatest mood boosters, even the act of taking a stroll around the workplace is beneficial.  Encourage your team members to get up, or get out, and walk during the day.  Create a sign-up sheet for a pre or post workday walkers club for an added bonus!

20. Initiate a healthy recipe swap

Ever heard the saying “You are what you eat?” That saying speaks to the fact that the foods you choose to put in your body have a direct impact on how you feel.  When you eat a proper diet, based in nutrient-rich foods, you are giving your body its best chance to feel great – which also includes your overall mood and mental well-being.  Ask team members to submit their favorite, healthy recipe to a shared Google doc and instantly create a workplace cookbook!  Consider pairing it with an onsite event and host a lunchtime potluck for employees to bring in samples of their favorite, healthy recipes to share.  

21. Host a financial wellness seminar

The link between financial wellness and mental health is strong.  Financial health is also one of the 4 major components of mental fitness. Unfortunately, financial stress is often prolonged or even chronic which can lead to mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and more.  Additionally, experts have found that financial concerns are at the top of the stress list for most people, which means these issues are likely affecting your team members in some capacity.  Invite a local speaker in to host a financial literacy seminar or financial wellness workshop.  Prepare your event well in advance by researching top-notch facilitators and ways to include remote employees.

22. Create a mental health resource guide

One of the best ways to support employee well-being is to provide access to information on updated mental health resources.  Mental health problems are much more difficult for people to address when they are not aware of where or how to access resources let alone which ones even exist. Develop a mental health resource guide that includes any mental health programs, local counselors, and workplace wellness programs available.  If your workplace participates or has access to any virtual events throughout the year, be sure to include a calendar of those as well.  Make the resource guide available as a standing link on the company intranet or push it out to team members multiple times a year.  It’s important to remember that people will not always reach out for this type of information due to the mental health stigma that still exists within society.  Make it accessible.

23. Schedule a meditation seminar

Not only does meditation help to improve concentration and focus, but it has been scientifically proven to lower stress levels and reduce anxiety. Even the most restless overthinkers can be successful at meditation by just practicing a few minutes each day.  Schedule a meditation expert to facilitate a seminar or workshop for your team.  Local yoga studios are a great resource when searching for these types of experts.

24. Distribute journaling prompts

One of the best stress management techniques is journaling.  It’s a great exercise that creates a personal safe space to help regulate emotions, increase awareness, and decrease the negative cycle of overthinking.  For some, the thought of getting started with journaling is the hardest part.  Create a printable list of journaling prompts to help your team members to help get them going with this healthy habit.  Include examples of different journaling techniques that they may not be aware of, such as bullet journaling, to inspire creativity.

25. Wear your favorite color day

Color psychology studies how different colors affect things like your mood and even your behavior.  Different colors and hues can affect things such as your sleep schedule, the way food tastes and even your purchases.  In fact, businesses use color psychology to help inform them of which colors to choose for their products and logos for that very reason.  Engage your team members by having them wear their favorite color on a specific day and set up a station with information on the positive, mood boosting effects of each color.  For an extra bonus, invite a local artist or paint store representative in to give a talk over lunch about the latest trends in color.  If feasible, hold a drawing for those who attend where the winner gets to have their office painted a color of their choice!

26. Distribute a list of well-being podcasts

Podcasts are a great resource for topics associated with mental health and positive well-being.  In general, podcasts provide an opportunity for listeners to use their imagination and relax or even become more educated.  With topics ranging from self-care and self-love to dealing with anxiety and depression or overcoming grief, there is a well-being podcast out there for everyone. Compile a list of the best mental health podcasts and share them with your team members.  Good Housekeeping shares a comprehensive list here.

27. Bring your pet to work day or create a virtual pet show and tell

Do not underestimate the power of pets!  In fact, researchers have found that when dogs and humans interact with each other they both enjoy increased levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with happiness.  Spread the love and have your team members share their special pets with the rest of the team.  If your workplace isn’t conducive to animals being on site, consider developing a virtual pet show and tell.  Have employees submit their favorite pet photos and write ups of their beloved companions and upload an online slide show to the intranet or shared site.  Extra points if you get together as a group to view!

28. Set up a DIY smoothie station

Smoothies are delicious but they can also help give your mental health a boost.  Adding certain ingredients to your morning smoothie can help balance blood sugar, reduce inflammation, and leave you feeling more energized.  Superfoods such as berries, green leafy vegetables and oats are all winners when it comes to blending a brain boosting smoothie.  Set up a “make your own smoothie” station at work and provide a few different recipes, all the ingredients and a blender.  Invite team members to stop by and enjoy a delicious mood boosting smoothie during the workday.  Extra points if you invite a local nutritionist or dietician in to give a talk or even provide a FAQ sheet on healthy smoothie making.

29. Create and distribute a Mindfulness app directory

The practice of mindfulness has been known to improve wellness and mental health.  Mindfulness apps are growing in popularity and can help with stress management techniques, better sleep, and meditation practices.  Create a listing of highly reviewed mindfulness apps to share with team members. Include a description of app and any pricing information, along with any promos or coupon codes. Women’s Health has a great listing of mindfulness apps here.

30. Set up a puzzle station

The act of working on a puzzle increases the production of dopamine, a chemical that regulates mood, memory, and concentration.  Grab a large 1,000-5,000 piece puzzle and empty it out on a table in a common area of the workplace.  Encourage team members to work on the puzzle during breaks or over lunch. 

31. Hang a coloring mural

Coloring is an easy, yet healthy way to relieve stress.  It calms the brain down and provides an opportunity for the mind and body to relax.  Order a large mural to hang in a break room or common area and provide a box of colored pencils or markers. Invite staff members to take a few minutes during the workday to color.   

Mental health support is crucial to the overall well-being of employees

Share these mood boosting activities with your staff and engage with them regularly to maintain a good understanding of mental health concerns.