New Year’s resolutions are, of course, a completely optional tradition. But if you like to use the occasion of a new calendar year to make some change, consider a resolution to take better care of your mental health. Many small habits can improve your well-being, especially over time. Here are a few ideas!
Get outside. Time spent in nature, even if it’s just in a backyard or city park, has been shown to relieve stress and improve mental and even physical health. January is not the easiest time to do this, but if you can build a habit of getting out for even short periods of time, it will be even easier to maintain once the weather warms up. And, getting out in the sun in the winter months when daylight hours are short can support improved mood.
Start a journaling habit. Many people benefit from putting their feelings and worries into words, whether it’s before bed to clear your mind of stressful thoughts, or at any other time to express yourself or sort out what you’re feeling. It’s best to set a small, realistic goal, and work with your existing routines to make time to journal. There are also a number of journaling apps that you can try if you prefer to keep an electronic journal (and have your phone remind you).
Move your body. Exercise finds its way into many New Year’s resolutions for health or weight loss reasons, but focusing on mental health gives you an opportunity to enjoy activity for the way it makes you feel. Consider more physical activity to boost your mood and help you manage stress. In some studies, an exercise program has been shown to be as effective as medication for mild depression. Mind-body practices like yoga can also aid mindfulness and emotional awareness.
Give sleep a chance. Sleep researchers and mental health experts will tell you that sleep is magical. It is your brain’s restoration time, helps learning and memory, helps us process and integrate bad experiences, and supports mood and coping. But getting enough can be hard and, frustratingly, it’s one of the only basic needs we don’t have complete control over (which you know if you’ve ever tried hard to fall asleep). In the new year, consider improving your sleep hygiene and bedtime habits to give sleep a better chance, whether that’s going to bed earlier, implementing a relaxing bedtime routine, or keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom.
Practice self-compassion. Being kinder to ourselves has numerous mental health benefits and represents a big change for many of us. Self-compassion is not the same as self-esteem, and doesn’t mean you never hold yourself accountable, but it means taking a new and different attitude toward yourself when you are struggling. More information and exercises are available at self-compassion.org, or this is a skill you can learn with a therapist.
Make this the year you get help. If you’ve been struggling, it takes courage to take the big step of finding a therapist. But therapy can help you get unstuck and make progress reducing your depression or anxiety, healing from past experiences, improving your relationships, and building your ability to cope with what life sends your way this year or next.
If you feel like it’s time to get help to improve your mental health, reach out today for a free consultation.