a woman sips tea with her two enormous cats

Ask the Advocates: Mental Health (Helpful Hobbies)

We asked two of our advocates, Donna Hacker Smith and Bouba Diemé, the question: What kinds of things do family and/or friends do to support your mental health? Check out their answers below!

What kinds of things do family and/or friends do to support your mental health?


My two cats are important in lessening my sense of isolation. They also give me the chance to do things for someone/something else. Feeling needed is critical to my sense of mental well-being. Their playfulness lightens the day.

I make a strong effort to join online in morning prayer hosted by a neighboring pastor, which has helped to keep me grounded spiritually. The opportunity for prayer and Scriptural reading is reassuring and stimulating.

There are some aspects of life that do not change. I try to walk outdoors two or three times a week, usually around 2 miles. Music is also crucial to me, and I listen to the radio while I work at home, or to my tunes while walking. Once again, reassuring and stimulating at the same time.

Phoning some of my church members to check on their well-being and to commiserate helps me to feel I am still doing my job, even though I cannot engage in my typical face-to-face visits at hospitals and nursing homes.

The stay-at-home time has offered me the opportunity to handle some dreaded tasks, like sorting through my late husband’s clothing. Now that we can donate to charity again, I felt a great sense of accomplishment taking several large bags of items to be used by the charity. Similarly, I have caught up on some prerecorded online courses I had been wanting to watch. So I have learned, too!


Being on the transplant list due to my heart failing and living with an LVAD pump implanted in my heart, I must remain physically active while not risking hurting myself by overdoing it or overexerting. Despite the permanent nagging feeling, I manage to do a few activities to stay mentally healthy and spiritually calm.

It all starts with a strategy which is to avoid ‘feeling down’ the most I can. I actively and mindfully try to be upbeat all the time. For that, I practice several calming and mindfulness activities including meditation, yoga, and martial art. At times, I just practice simple breathing techniques, or just being quiet and silently taking in the sounds and the smells around me. These activities help me be more mindful with a heightened level of awareness.

I have a gym membership, but I seldom make it there. Two years ago, I bought a spin bike which is in our basement. Once or twice a week, I go down to cycle for an hour or so. Sometimes, my kids would join me, and we have some fun down there. We also take family walks, where my sons would bike or my wife jogs. All the above help me maintain a balanced life, not only with regards to my health, but also my family, my relationship, or work-life balance.

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