17 Amazing Mental Tricks for When You Don’t Want to Pay for Therapy

Save big by finding your happy place.

17 Amazing Mental Tricks for When You Don’t Want to Pay for Therapy

Anyone who’s sat on a cozy couch across from a therapist has probably felt a whole lot of relief by the end of the session. The only problem? Afterward, you’re left with a hefty bill that can easily be a couple hundred bucks per session. While the effectiveness of that time spent with an expert has been proven effective time and time again, sometimes you can save money and find your happy place—all by trying some totally free mental tricks right in the comfort of your own home. Here are the best ones to start with.

woman laughing to herself anti-jokes

Make Yourself Laugh

You can tell yourself a bad joke, watch some funny videos on YouTube, or go to the latest comedy flick at the movie theater. Whatever the case may be, something as simple as getting yourself to laugh will help improve your mood, not to mention lessen anxiety and depression over time, says the Mayo Clinic. And the majority of the time (minus a movie ticket or two!), it doesn’t even cost a dime.

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Write It Out

Sure, talking things out with a therapist is helpful. One form of therapy that’s totally free, though, is altering your mindset through journaling. One form of therapeutic writing—called free writing—simply requires writing down anything and everything that’s on your mind, no worrying about hiding or being ashamed about anything that hits the paper. You can burn it when you’re done if you want, but the process itself is incredibly healing.

Woman is calm in the outdoors.

Turn Your Negatives Into Positives

Now, it’s not easy to alter your perception of something negative to something more positive. One mental trick you can use is just reframing those less-than-stellar thoughts. Instead of thinking, “I’m never going to get out of this rut I’m in,” alter the thought by instead coming up with ways you will get out of your rut. It’s easier to pull yourself out of the negativity than you think.

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Is there a better mental trick than meditation? Many people who meditate on the daily say it is their therapy: That time sitting quietly and taking deep breaths can help calm your mind and even prevent any stressors in your life from taking a toll on you physically, says the Cleveland Clinic. It’s one of the easiest ways to improve your mental wellbeing, and you only need to do it 10 minutes a day.

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Focus on the Present

It’s easy to get caught up—and stressed out!—about everything that’s going on in your life, even things that are months from now. Here’s the deal, though: If you’re constantly getting worked up about the future, you’re never going to be able to relax and enjoy your life in the moment. Do what you need to do, but remember you’re not a superhero: Don’t forget to take the time to focus on the present as well.

Woman Telling Man to Relax Over 40

Forget the Worst Case Scenario

When you’re feeling down, it’s not uncommon to “catastrophize,” the colloquial term for what the mental health community calls “cognitive distortion”—always having your mind on the worst-case scenario. Instead, focus on the positives. The mind tends to make things out to be much worse than they actually are, and working through whatever is frustrating you or holding you back by thinking about the upsides will help banish those negative thoughts and let you take action.

Hit the Reset Button

It would be pretty nice to have an actual “reset” button in life where you can have a clean slate whenever you need it. Well, it might not be something physical you can press, but you’re totally allowed to have a mental reset button. If you’re not feeling the best—whether you’re sad, upset, overwhelmed, annoyed, whatever—picture that button and press it, take a few deep breaths, and allow yourself to move on.

Talk Yourself Up

People compliment other up all the time, so why not throw a few of them your own way once in a while? You’ll always be your biggest cheerleader and also your biggest critique. So instead of bringing yourself down, talk yourself up throughout the day by noting things you love about yourself, what you’re proud of yourself for, what you’re great at—you name it.

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Chat Up a Stranger

Sometimes you simply need to get things off your chest. Instead of paying big bucks for a therapist, why not chat up a stranger? Whether it’s a bartender, hair stylist, or cashier at the grocery store, don’t be afraid to take a few minutes to talk things out. They might look at you weird, but hey—you’ll probably never see them again, and you just got someone to listen to your problems for free. It’s a win-win.

Man relaxing and dealing with negative thoughts

Find Your Mantra

Repeating a word or phrase over and over again—whether out loud or silently—might seem a little, uh, crazy, but mantras can tangibly improve your mental health, helping fight off stress and decrease negative thoughts. While you’re meditating, repeating a mantra can make sure your mind stays on track no matter how many times it tries to wander off—even it’s as simple as slowly repeating the classic, “Om.”

Meditating Adults Taking Deep Breaths {Breathing Problems}

Take Deep Breaths

Breathing is something you never think about—it’s just something your body does naturally. If you’re wound up and in need of something to soothe your brain, just slow down your breath. Breathing exercises are used in relaxation therapy all the time, and it only takes a few steps to get your fix. Sit or lay down, put one hand on your belly, breathe in through your nose, and breathe out through pursed lips, says the University of Michigan. After taking a handful of breaths, you’ll feel more relaxed, have less tension in your body, and notice your stress slowly drift away.

Take a Time-Out

Ornery toddlers aren’t the only ones who need a time out every so often—full-grown adults can use them, too. If you’ve ever feeling overwhelmed about something, whether it’s work or your personal life, give yourself five minutes to calm down. Go somewhere you can think and breathe without interruption—even if that’s just a bathroom stall at work—and that much-needed mental break is bound to make you feel better by the time you head back to reality.


Do Some Coloring

Instead of talking things out, color them out. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found creative art, like coloring, is incredibly therapeutic for adults, helping banish stress and anxiety. The relaxation that comes from grabbing some crayons and making your blank page go from bare to rainbow-colored might be just the mindless activity you need to give your brain a break.

woman looking super positive

Try Affirmations

People can compliment you all they want, but you’re not going to believe any of ‘em until you start believing in yourself. And that’s where daily affirmations come in. The technique helps you create a positive self-image and combat negative thoughts, all by saying a phrase to yourself out loud in the mirror. After days go by of repeating everything from “I’m smart, kind, and have an amazing life” to “I can do anything I set my mind to”—or whatever you need to remember—you’ll start to believe it.

woman on phone

Call Your Mom

Who’s a better therapist than your own mom, sibling, or best friend? No matter who it is that you trust with your thoughts, give them a call when you need to talk to. Even just a 10-minute chat venting about your frustrations or revealing your inner doubts—and getting some guidance from someone you love and respect—will make you feel some relief and help you work through your problems.

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Focus on a Happy Place

Feeling stressed? Then you probably need a little break. To give your brain a rest, close your eyes and focus in on one thing: your happy place. Maybe that’s a beach, your favorite bench on your favorite hiking trail, or the reading nook in your favorite bookstore. After spending a few minutes visualizing yourself in that relaxing atmosphere, you’ll be a lot more at ease and will be able to think clearly again.

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Listen to Soothing Sounds

If there’s a lot going on in your head and you simply need to shut off for a while, grab your phone and play some soothing sounds, whether that’s ocean waves, rain, chirping birds—whatever makes you feel totally at ease. After five minutes listening with your eyes closed, you’ll feel totally recharged and ready to take on your day. And to conquer negative thoughts for good, check out these 20 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health Every Day.

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