7 Essentials Fellow Shoppers Say You Need For a Cozy Mental Health Night at Home
There's no award for having the busiest social calendar. Soothe your mental health with time to restore this season...these products may help.
In its October 2022 report, the American Psychological Association sounds the alarm on what it calls a “battered American psyche,” with political divisiveness, rising inflation, concern for the future, and lingering pandemic re-entry anxiety seriously stressing our collective mental health. For the first time ever, the US Preventive Services Task Force even issued a recommendation that all adults under age 65 get screened for anxiety as rates of mental health disorders continue to climb. So, especially as winter moves in: if staying in the comfort of your own home has never sounded so good, you’re not alone.
Sure, there’s something to be said about giving yourself a little “push” to get out of the house, even when Netflix is screaming your name. Science tells us seeing our friends is a major stress reliever, spending time in nature eases depression and mental fatigue, and, intriguingly, getting out to volunteer makes us happier and healthier. But it’s just as important to soak up some alone time when you need it, says Scott Gspandl, MD, a psychiatrist at OhioHealth Behavioral Health. “Our brains are constantly running risk-benefit analysis on all activities we engage in,” he says. When your brain errs on the side of safety, it might feel easier to just stay at home.
Adds Peggy Loo, PhD, a psychologist and director of Manhattan Therapy Collective: self-compassion is critical. When you’re feeling spread thin and just need to replenish the source, give yourself permission to stay in for some self-care. These top-rated items can help you make it the coziest you-time yet.
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Luna Weighted Blanket
Studies have shown that weighted blankets help you sleep better and are especially beneficial for treating chronic insomnia. (In fact, a new study found that a weighted blanket was an even more powerful sleep aid than melatonin.)
Evidence also suggests it’s worth having one to curl up with on your couch. The light pressure has been shown to stimulate hormones like serotonin that send you into a sense of calm—one study found that 63 percent of participants reported lower anxiety after cuddling up under a weighted blanket for just five minutes.
Weight blanket fans say the Luna Weighted Blanket is one of the best on the market, thanks to its versatility: you can have your choice of comfort between 12 to 30 pounds of pressure. “As soon as I put it on, I start to feel all the little anxiety energy carbonation bubbles all over my body, and after a couple of minutes, they start to fizzle out, and my muscles finally relax!” writes shopper aminordim. (Sign us up for that sensation.)
Manduka Pro Yoga Mat
Yoga can be an incredible full-body exercise, and certain styles like restorative yoga, Yin yoga, and yoga Nidra are particularly low-impact, low-intensity ways to zap stress away. “When you focus on your breath and the movement of your body, your brain increases its production of chemicals like endorphins and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) neurotransmitters that have calming and relaxing effects,” says Harold Hong, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist at New Waters Recovery in North Carolina.
Amazon reviewers say the Maduka Pro is ideal for this nightly unwind. Because the mat is thicker than most, it provides just enough cushioning for the achiest parts of your body while offering plenty of support, whether you’re on carpeting and bare floor.
321 STRONG 5-in-1 Foam Roller Set
Foam rollers are a popular tool to relieve muscle tension and fatigue. But recent research published in Brain Sciences suggests foam rolling works to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation (not to mention more affordably) than getting a massage.
Celebrity trainer Mike Matthews, CPT, told The Healthy this set from 321 STRONG is his foam roller of choice—and users agree. “Once you get up, your body feels amazing and super relaxed,” raves reviewer Rylee Bell.
Ordering delivery can be tempting, but there’s nothing like a good home-cooked meal. Plus, cooking or baking as a part of your night-in ritual can be the perfect way to switch off a stressful day. That’s because stimulating our five senses helps to soothe and calm our nervous system, explains Linda Baggett, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist. And mindfully preparing food (as opposed to cracking open that takeout container) activates the full sensory range of touch, sight, smell, sound, and taste.
But if you don’t want to spend your whole evening in the kitchen, that’s where the cult classic Instant Pot steps in. “It makes your recipes taste better/more tender, saves tons of time, and makes for easy cleanup,” writes reviewer Mystchphe—getting you well-fed and into a clear headspace in, well, an instant.
Himalayan Glow Salt Lamp
Make sure you incorporate some warm lighting into your space, recommends Emily DiPalma, MFT, a therapist based in Massachusetts. She loves the orange-pink glow of a Himalayan salt lamp, particularly one that has a dimmer option so you can strike the exact ambiance you’re after. (Brilliant!)
“I’m so glad I found this,” writes user alexisolivia, “as I can dim it slowly as I near the time for bed, and it helps soothe my anxiety tremendously.”
Light therapy can energize you, too—here are 7 sunrise alarm clocks to try out this winter
Fiora Naturals Shower Steamers
There’s nothing like soaking in a warm bath or shower to help you decompress, Dr. Hong says. “The heat of the water can help ease muscle tension and promote circulation while washing away the day’s dirt and grime can be extremely satisfying.” Adding some aromatherapy is a proven way to relax your muscles and mind even more, according to research in Applied Sciences.
While bath bombs are all the rage, these shower steamers are a great alternative if you don’t have a tub or just don’t like baths. The heat of the shower releases a burst of soothing vapors like sweet orange, rosemary, and lily for an at-home spa experience. “I am so soo sooo in love with these steamers,” writes one Amazon reviewer. “[The tablets] start diffusing as soon as the hot water hits and helps me relax and unwind.”
Let That Sh*t Go Guided Gratitude Journal
Before tucking into your favorite TV show or book, a little journaling is a cathartic way to release lingering emotions and anxieties, says Noelle Nelson, PhD, a psychologist and author. “It’s my safe and private place to talk about the stresses I’m feeling,” she says. By no longer holding these feelings in, you can be fully present to embrace your much-needed me-time.
There’s no “right way” to journal, but Dr. Nelson says she likes to write down the things causing her the most anxiety (but no more than three). “Then, for every anxiety, I write down at least twice as many things that I’m grateful for. After comparing the two lists for a moment, I take a long, deep breath and immediately feel the release of anxiety and intense feeling of gratitude.”
If you’d prefer guided prompts, Amazon shoppers love this fun, witty journal that also has coloring pages that encourage mindfulness meditation. “The exercises are relevant to my life and encourage me to think deeper and ask myself important questions,” writes reviewer ilovebabyblue. “I can honestly say that this book helped me get out of a funk and get my happiness and confidence back.”
Peggy Loo, PhD, a psychologist and director of Manhattan Therapy Collective
Harold Hong, MD, a board-certified psychiatrist at New Waters Recovery in North Carolina
Linda Baggett, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist
Emily DiPalma, MFT, a therapist based in Massachusetts
Noelle Nelson, PhD, a psychologist and author
The American Psychological Association: "Stress in America 2022"
US Preventive Services Task Force: "Screening for Anxiety in Adults"
Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: "A randomized controlled study of weighted chain blankets for insomnia in psychiatric disorders"
Occupational Therapy in Mental Health: "Exploring the Safety and Therapeutic Effects of Deep Pressure Stimulation Using a Weighted Blanket"
Brain Sciences: "Foam Rolling Elicits Neuronal Relaxation Patterns Distinct from Manual Massage: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
Applied Sciences: "Effects of Aromatherapy on the Physical and Mental Health and Pressure of the Middle-Aged and Elderly in the Community"