6 Things That Might Be Better than Therapy

In Life Reflections by Jen Johnson

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Jen Johnson

Jen Johnson

I am a big fan of therapy. Most of us, at some point in our life, could benefit from talking through our dysfunctions and damaged places with someone who is both insightful and objective. (Yes, you are damaged and yes, you are dysfunctional. Ask your spouse or best friend.) There is value in “owning” your “issues,” as they like to say in such circles, and a good therapist will go beyond listening to challenging your thinking and working with you to find next steps.

So I’m a fan. But for all that, there are times when the last thing you need is to talk something through from yet another angle or gaze inward yet again to see your adorable inner child. Sometimes it’s helpful instead not to think much at all or to work until you’re weary. So whether you’re tired of the therapy thing or you’ve just had a crummy day, here are my favorite (mostly free!) ways to find my zen.


Not walking, because it doesn’t exhaust me enough. Not hiking, because I love hiking but I don’t always have time to drive 30 minutes to a park. Just running–me, my worn-out Asics, some unforgiving pavement, and a head full of thoughts I’ll soon be too tired to think.


I love to drive. I love to drive like middle schoolers love Snapchat. Like pastors love millionaires who tithe. LOVE. There’s always something new to look at, the tunes can be loud, and you’re in your own little self-contained world to feel all the feels for as long as you need to.

Watching it rain

If there was a summer thunderstorm rolling in, my family always knew they would find me on the front porch, soaking it in. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) A few nights ago we got our first thunderstorm of the season here in Philly and I spent two lovely hours out on this front porch watching it come down, listening to the cars hiss through it, dipping into a book now and then, and nursing a glass of red. Bliss.

Burning things

Why is this so cathartic? I don’t know but the fact that our house has both a front porch for the rain and a fire pit for the burning is good for my soul.


Last year, otherwise known as the worst year of my life so far, Matt and I redid all three bedrooms including a complete HGTV-worthy renovation of our dusty gross attic into a bedroom and study. Really Matt did almost all of it, but I did almost all of the painting, and somewhere in the middle of room #2 I realized the “cutting in” (my favorite part) and rolling and touching up and then doing it all again for the second coat was making the rest of life more manageable.


Or planting, or watering the plants, or shoveling mulch, or anything related to it. There’s enough physical activity to distract your troubled mind and at the end of it there’s also a patch of clean ground or a bed of flowers, full of possibility. I think garden soil must have Prozac in it.

How about you? How do you get outside your head or shut it off for a while?

Photo (Flickr CC) by CameliaTWU

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Jen Johnson

Jen Johnson

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After years of event planning and business reengineering, Jen realized she didn't actually want an office job and instead started a freelance writing and editing business in 2007. She hasn't starved, and she's had the opportunity to work with great organizations like The Los Angeles Dream Center, XXXChurch, Visioneering Studios, and The Association of Related Churches. Today she lives with her husband Matt, his two teenagers, and a really big dog in the Philly suburbs where she continues to write, pursue a seminary degree, and stay up too late.
Jen Johnson

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