5 Relaxation activities (that are not deep breathing)
Unexpected activities that can help relieve stress

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘relaxation’? We’re guessing it’s activities like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing. While such methods are undoubtedly effective in helping to relieve stress and enhance mental wellbeing, they might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes you just want to do an activity that will allow you to switch off, but still feel like your brain is engaged.

So here’s our list of activities that are (kind of) fun, and can also help relieve stress when the traditional relaxation techniques just won’t do…

Colouring in

Yes, it’s perfectly fine for adults to colour in too! The widespread availability of adult colouring books isn’t just a fad – studies have proven that colouring in can help relieve stress. While it may not be something you can do in between other tasks (unlike deep breathing), if you find yourself with a spare 20 minutes, rather than be tempted to finish off some business administration, keep a colouring book and some pencils at hand, and you might find the boost to your mood does wonders for your productivity for the rest of the day.

Doing a jigsaw puzzle

In addition to improving short term memory, problem solving, productivity and creativity, the classic jigsaw puzzle has also been proven to help with stress and anxiety. Offering an immersive escape away from the interruptions and stresses of day-to-day life, there doesn’t seem to be any negative effects of jigsaw puzzles, with the industry projected to grow substantially over the next few years. If you haven’t done a jigsaw puzzle since your school days, now might be the time to pick one up. Experts recommend starting with a 500 piece puzzle as they offer a perfect balance of challenge and solvability.

Get moving (or planting) - outdoors

You’ve already heard the benefits exercise can bring in reducing stress levels. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a strenuous session at the gym - a 10 minute walk around the block can be enough to help provide some relief to a stressful day. Better still, if you don’t even feel like leaving the house, gardening is considered a ‘low impact’ form of exercise and has been proven to help enhance mental wellbeing, so if you find yourself with a spare half hour, head over to your backyard and get your hands in the soil – here are some tips to help get you started.


It’s safe to assume more treats were baked during the COVID-19 lockdowns than any other era in time. And as it turns out, this baking did more than simply provide a way for families to pass time at home. According to experts, baking triggers our sense of smell, touch and taste, and the tangible end result brings a sense of accomplishment. This brings significant benefits to mental wellbeing, and let’s not forget the added benefit of having something to snack on later. 

Watching children’s cartoons

Bright colours, light-hearted storylines, and simple portrayal of the world – the combination of these factors makes cartoons an effective way to ease negative feelings. And when you add to this the endorphins released from laughing, it’s no wonder some psychologists use cartoons as a method of treating certain mental conditions. So next time you start to feel anxious or down, tune into your favourite cartoon, and you might be surprised at the improvement to your mood.

Everyone’s different…

Whether the activities we’ve suggested appeal to you or not, it’s important to remember that everyone’s different. It’s about finding something that helps you relieve your stress – whether you’re partial to the traditional activities like meditation, or even find certain day to day tasks strangely therapeutic (folding laundry, anyone?). Finding gaps in your day where you can do something specifically for your mental wellbeing will make a big difference in your overall health.

Subscribe to SME Talk

Aon has taken care in the production of this article and the information contained in it has been obtained from sources that Aon believes to be reliable. Aon does not make any representation as to the accuracy of the information received from third parties and is unable to accept liability for any loss incurred by anyone who relies on it. The recipient of this article is responsible for their use of it. This information is intended to provide general insurance related information only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, nor does it, or should it (under any circumstances) be construed as constituting legal advice. You should seek independent legal or other professional advice before acting or relying on any of the contents of this information. Aon will not be responsible for any loss, damage, cost or expense you or anyone else incurs in reliance on or use of any information contained in this article.