Many of us use the new year as an opportunity to hit the refresh button on our bodies, minds, and spirits. Many of us tend to forget that making positive changes at the start of the new year isn’t always about the numbers on the scale or hitting the gym. This year, why not make a positive change to enhance your mental well-being?
Now the first question is, “Where do I start?” Most of the time New Year’s resolutions are very black and white, and you either keep them or you don’t. The reason for that is because most people just give up when they fall off the wagon. Instead, you need to try to set realistic goals that you can work on throughout the year. Things won’t always be all rainbows and sunshine, but you can make progress if you have a plan that is long term. It is possible to avoid the mental defeats that tend to occur when you don’t stick to what you resolved to do.
To help you get started, here are some resolutions to enhance your mental health:
Feed Your Mind
Scientists have studied and discovered a very important link between your gut health and your mental health. Serotonin (a key chemical messenger in the brain) is produced in the gut. It’s thought that reducing inflammation in the digestive tract can help your body produce more serotonin. In turn, this plays a huge role in mood, sleep, and appetite. The National Institute of Mental Health states that people with depression often have a lower than normal levels of serotonin.
Resolve to: Cut back on processed foods. Add one more fruit or vegetable to your diet.
All you need is thirty minutes of moderate exercise at least five times a week. Not only will this habit keep your heart healthy but it is also an amazing mood booster. Even just an hour of exercise a week can reduce future risks of depression. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and that boosts both the production and availability of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The more of those little guys we have, the better we feel. A bonus is that exercise happens to be one of the quickest ways to relieve stress.
Resolve to: Walk around the house or office more often. Take the stairs instead of the elevator and park further away from the grocery store doors.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep is necessary to be physically and mentally robust. Our bodies and minds use the downtime to rejuvenate and process information accumulated throughout the day. This also helps solidify memories. But if we become sleep deprived, we will become irritable. People suffering from insomnia are more likely to experience anxiety as well as depression. When you are sleep deprived, you can’t manage your moods, and the most basic demands on your life begin to feel harder and harder.
Resolve to: Wind down 30 minutes before you go to bed. Turn off electronics and aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Jot Down Your Thoughts
Try keeping a journal or making notes in your smart phone. This practice can also be a useful tool for your mental well-being, especially if your mind is going in circles about a particular subject. Writing down your thoughts can help ease any anxious feelings and help your brain to mange your thoughts.
Resolve to: Utilize a to-do list or keep a journal.
Set Very Clear Priorities
Most of us want to avoid unnecessary emotional stress in the new year. Having a plan will really help. Think about your priorities and ask yourself how they line up with your values. Sometimes this may mean saying “no” to people or tasks to make sure your goals are not overloaded. Working towards unimportant things can take away from you being able to do the things that matter and will also add unnecessary stress, anxiety, conflict, and even depression.
Resolve to: Think about your top five priorities or goals for the new year. Decide how you want to spend your time and how that aligns with your goals.
Carve Out Some Time for Yourself
We tend to stay plugged into our work, money, and social drama around the clock, thanks to technology. Those pressures can snowball over time if we let it. Every person needs a release valve. It’s very helpful to take time off at the end of the year, but you can kick start your new year with a small vacation as well.
Resolve to: Take some quiet time to meditate, listen to music, or pursue a hobby.
Seek Out Psychological Help
There is no shame in seeing a mental health professional. If you have symptoms of depression and anxiety, then you shouldn’t suffer in silence. These professionals are trained to help and can prescribe good treatments. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you think more clearly and look at things through a different perspective. Anxiety and depression do not go away on their own. You should really talk to someone about what you may be experiencing.
Resolve to: Make this the year you talk to a professional, even if it’s just for one session.