You don’t need to sign up at that expensive gym or yoga studio.
No need to buy special clothes or equipment. You don’t even need to subscribe to costly apps. There are many cost-effective ways to take care of your mental health right now without waiting until your next paycheck.
If you’re struggling with your mental health and are living on a tight budget or paycheck to paycheck, here is a list of options you can start right away. All it takes is just a little bit of time to decide what might work for you.
(Can be) completely free:
1. Go to your local library.
Library cards are free and if you return your checked out items on time this will be a completely free cost option for you. Some libraries will not only have paper books but books on CD, DVDs, music, and even free computer usage. Many of them now also have an app where you can read books or listen to their audio versions on your device. Many times, they will have the option to read a book you’re interested in even if they don’t have the actual hard copy in the library.
YouTube can be honestly too easy to go down the rabbit hole of content. However, if you can stay focused and not become distracted or overwhelmed by the sheer volume of it all, it really is a fantastic resource for free meditations, exercises, motivational podcasts, and even mood music. Set a timer for yourself and peruse some of the popular and free subscriptions, make a playlist, and get started.
Walking is free. You don’t need special workout clothes. Just go outside and start even if it’s a short distance until you have enough energy or time to do more. If you want to walk for longer distances, just make sure that you have sturdy and comfortable shoes. Don’t let the fact that you don’t have the “latest and greatest” pair of walking shoes deter you from doing so. Bonus points if you can find a way out of the city and into nature.
If you live in an area where hiking is an option, this can be a huge benefit for both your mind and body. Being outside in nature has been proven to be highly beneficial for the mind, and making it to the top of a mountain, or even halfway, can give you that needed mental boost.
5. Apartment complex or community amenities.
Utilize their fitness center and/or pool. You’re already paying rent or HOA fees, and the cost of these amenities are typically built in.
6. Listen to helpful podcasts.
You don’t have to subscribe to any one app. There are so many platforms that you can use on the basic level for free such as Spotify.
7. Meditation and deep breathing.
I could talk all day about the positive benefits of doing both. Start a regular practice, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day to begin with. They can have a profound impact on your mental and physical well-being.
8. Talk it out.
This can be a tricky one because some people are alone and not everyone has someone they can talk to. If this is something you can do, talking with a trusted friend can brighten your spirits, give you a different perspective, and ease some of the loneliness you may be feeling. Please remember that if you are in a crisis, there are hotlines you can call to speak with a trained professional.
Things that (can) cost a little more than free:
9. Find your local community center.
Many communities have more facilities than you may even realize. Think: fitness centers, water parks, and lap swim pools. For the sake of this article, I did the research on the facility I used in my old neighborhood, and while the fee has gone up to $4/session for use of both the fitness center and lap swim pool in one visit, this is still a great deal for the amenities provided. Check out the local amenities near you to see if this option is something that could be of benefit.
10. Do some research on your health benefits.
If you have a health insurance policy, they may have benefits such as acupuncture or even talk therapy for the cost of a co-pay. You can usually do this research by simply looking through their website or at the explanation of benefits that you should have been provided when your policy began.
11. Company policies.
Find out if the company you work for has any benefits specific to mental health awareness. If you feel comfortable you can ask your HR representative directly, but most of the time if a company does offer any of these types of benefits, it will be listed in your Employee Handbook.
12. Watch what you eat.
You need to purchase food anyway so why not make them healthier options? What we put into our bodies has a direct effect on our minds. Simply put, don’t eat processed foods. Anything that is grown is better than anything manufactured in a warehouse. Instead of candy, try a mixture of strawberries and yogurt. Instead of baked goods, go for the 70 percent or higher cacao chocolate bar. Buy in the bulk section of your grocery store and you can cut your costs down even more. They will typically have a variety of trail mixes, raw lentils and beans, nuts, grains and more. If watching what you eat for your mental health is a new concept to you, start small. Smoothies are a great starting point if you’re ready to make some real changes to your diet—so are meatless Mondays. Eating real food instead of processed junk truly does influence your mind. Do the research if it interests you to learn more.
13. One and done.
Choose one app that you can pay a low monthly price for that has everything—meditations, exercises of all kinds, documentaries, healthy eating, spiritual, and mindful living content. For all of these and more, check out “Gaia,” which is a streaming media network. They offer quite a wide variety of content, which is all included in your membership. I recommend this app as a great starting point if you are overwhelmed with all the available content out there or prefer the minimalistic approach to app volume.
While the journey toward good mental health can feel daunting, it’s helpful to know that your financial situation doesn’t have to get in the way. Just getting started is an important step and one you can be proud of. The more tools you have in your “Wellness Toolbox,” the better you can feel.
One final note: it’s okay to talk about your mental health; it’s okay to not be okay; it’s okay to ask for help. Prioritizing your mental health is not selfish; it’s necessary.