Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer. ​
Photo illustration by Kaushik Kalidindi for Okayplayer.

Four Therapist-Recommended Healing Practices You Can Do at Home

Okayplayer spoke with psychotherapist Bea Arthur about a set of at-home practices that can lead to healing and an elevated mood.

As much as we would like talk therapy to be accessible and affordable for all, that’s just not the case. A third of folks surveyed for a 2022 report conducted by VerywellMind said that they canceled therapy sessions due to financial strain. Compounded with the cost of sessions alone, secondary costs, like childcare during appointments and transportation to and from sessions, can price the average person out of seeking help. For Black folks, the barrier to access care can be even steeper. Researchers say significant factors, like distrust of the medical system, discrimination, and microaggressions, can leave Black people particularly vulnerable to unmet mental health needs, according to a 2019 study published by Health Services Research.

Seventy-five percent of clients who underwent psychotherapy report the journey positively impacted their lives, the APA reported. But for people who don’t have access to treatment, there are other healing modalities that can prove beneficial, Bea Arthur, psychotherapist and founder of The Difference told Okayplayer. And the best part is, you don’t have to break the bank to do them regularly. Some of the practices you might even be doing already. It’s all about making a regular and intentional practice of whatever works best for you.

Program your own mind first thing in the morning

Bea told Okayplayer that tending to your own mind first thing in the morning can be an easy game-changer.

“Put your own thoughts first,” she said. She recommends checking in with your emotions as soon as you wake up, way before you pick up the phone and start scrolling.

“That’s why they call it programming: TV programming and social media programming. Program your own self,” she said.

Bea explained that positive affirmations like, “I’m going to be nice to myself today,” and “I’m going to give myself grace,” and “I’m going to be proud of myself,” can help start the day off on the right foot.

Journaling can help you connect to your own feelings

A journal can be a handy companion to your morning quiet time.

“Letting your mind wander in the morning as long as you can” helps you decide what day you’re going to have before the world does," Bea said.

Writing about traumatic or stressful events has been linked to the long-term benefits of fewer stress-related doctor visits, lower blood pressure, and improved mood, according to a 2018 research review published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment.

“Journaling can be a great pressure-releasing valve when we feel overwhelmed or simply have a lot going on internally,” Amy Hoyt, PhD, founder of Mending Trauma told Healthline.

Bea said if you don’t have pen and paper, voice notes work well, too. It’s just important to get the raw emotions out of your mind and body.

Safe touch can heal

Don’t underestimate the importance of physical touch, and yes, platonic touch counts, too, singles.

In a 2014 study of 400 adults published in the Association for Psychological Science, researchers found that hugging may reduce the chance a person gets ill. Hugs also release the “cuddle hormone” in our brains known as oxytocin, which can help soothe feelings of isolation, anger, or sadness. “It’s a natural antidote for cortisol, the stress hormone,” Bea said.

Famed psychotherapist Virginia Satir once told ForbesForbes, “We need eight hugs a day for maintenance.” So get your hug count way up!

“We are social creatures. We were literally put here together to take care of one another and survive,” Bea said.

And if you don’t have anyone to hug you, self-touch works too.

“You can hug different parts of your body,” Bea said. “Tell yourself you are safe, and you are loved.”

Don’t keep the hurt bottled up inside

Bea recommends opening up to someone you trust if you aren’t able to talk to a therapist. Even a good cry witnessed by someone in a safe space can do a world of good.

When we cry, Bea said, the stress hormone cortisol is released, which can free up stuck energy in the body.

“This is your body’s natural way of regulating your emotions,” she said.

While a friend can’t be expected to function as a therapist, there are benefits to having a loving ear to vent to. Just have reasonable expectations that sometimes our loved ones can say the wrong things, or even try to bandage up the problem when we just want to be seen. But even with those limitations, it can still be worth it, because we all need, “a place to be honest and admit what we’re going through,” Bea said.

Movement is also a great way to metabolize trauma. In 2015, researchers found that dancing can be an effective tool to reduce negative, repetitive thoughts that can be triggered by traumatic events. Moving allows the dancer to immerse themselves in their body, which encourages the release of endorphins, the brain’s happy chemical.

Bea said the word “emotion” comes from the Latin word “emotere,” which means “energy in motion,” so if we don’t discharge emotions from the body, we internalize it. Unprocessed trauma is linked to chronic health conditions like heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and cancer, according to Harvard Health.

“Do not keep things to yourself. The energy doesn’t go away unless you do something with it. So it’s really important that if you don’t have a safe space to vocalize it, you exercise it, cry, laugh, whatever it takes,” Bea said.