Mental Health is becoming a familiar topic in everyday conversations, and it’s about time. The world can be overwhelming — the news, social media, work, and even our personal relationships with friends and family can drain us dry. Some of us don’t even realize the emotional baggage we carry until it completely weighs us down to immobility.

According to the World Health Organization, by 2020, depression is expected to be the second leading cause of global disability burden and is currently the leading mental health problem among women. A great way to decrease symptoms of mental illness is through creative expression. “Much of our depression, anxiety, and relationship difficulties stem from a lack of creative expression,” said licensed therapist, Amanda Stemen. “When we give ourselves that voice, we validate our truest selves and our mental health improves.”

Creative expression can provide a vital outlet when dealing with difficult situations. There are so many ways to express yourself creatively that it offers an individualized experience for coping with your mental illness. Creative projects can not only help you express your feelings but they can also help illustrate how you feel to others. From journaling to dancing, here are five activities you can do today that can make a positive impact on your mental health.

1. Journaling. There are a lot of thoughts that run through your head during the day and journaling is a great way to get them out of your head. This doesn't have to be a "dear diary" situation, there are other forms of journaling that can be equally as effective. You can start a bullet journal, photo journal, or just doodle on a page. Stemen suggests that it's a "great way to work through our thoughts and feelings in a less structured format."

2. Blackout Poetry. Blackout poetry is something that even people who feel they aren't creative can participate in. Take a page of a book, newspaper article, or any other printed material. Scan the page for keywords that resonate with you and start to circle them with a pencil. Without changing the order of any words, start to draw lines from the words to make a complete thought or phrase. Blackout any words that aren't in your phrase or poem, and add illustrations or colored boxes to emphasis the words that are left. Everything you need is already on the page, all you have to do is arrange it. This activity is also helpful for creatives who feel like they are "stuck" and uninspired.

3. Dance Party. Fans of Grey's Anatomy can remember the infamous dance breaks Meredith and Cristina would have at the end of a rough day at the hospital. The truth is, dancing is a great way to shake out emotional woes. Dancing releases your DOSE which is an acronym for your happiness chemicals: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. — all of which lead to an increase in mental health and wellness. You can have a pretty epic dance party during a 15-minute work break. Keep your headphones in your bag, and turn up to get your mood up throughout the day.

4. Photography. You don't need a fancy camera with an assortment of lenses to capture beautiful pictures. You can capture moments on your phone. Photography causes you to look beyond yourself to find things worth remembering. It can also be very revealing to see what draws your attention to the point that you want to hold it in time. After you take the photo, you can do self-reflection to find out why. Was it beautiful? Was it sad? Did it remind you of something or someone? Snap a few photos on your phone during the day and review them when you get home. You can even add them to your journal.

5. Crafting. We know crafting can be intimidating but it's also a great way to get out of your head. No one expects you to crochet a sweater overnight, but you can create small projects or contribute an hour a night to learning a particular craft. Ceramics, paper crafts, needlework, leatherworking, flower crafts, are some on a long list of projects that can not only improve your mental health but add flair to your decor at home and give you a great feeling of accomplishment.

Taking on any one of these suggestions can be a big positive leap forward in improving your mental health. For additional support, it's also not a bad idea to seek out a therapist or healthcare professional to guide you through alternative outlets that may prove more effective.

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(Photos via Unsplash)