By Kristen Sohlman, HBA, RP
In order to train yourself to become healthier mentally it is not about setting one goal for yourself to accomplish in January. Instead, train yourself by making a genuine commitment towards self-improvement. Your mental health should include a commitment to become a little better each day throughout the process of the entire year. Try not to become overwhelmed by making too large of a goal such as quitting smoking or losing weight, and instead focus on improving your mental health and break your goal down into more manageable steps. Start with a goal that you want to achieve. For example, in January you may decide to begin journaling, in February you may decide to create more time for mindfulness, and in March you may decide to express your gratitude to those around you. Be creative! Choose meaningfully! After all, there are only 12 months of the year!
I will take action on my mental health.
There is enough stigma around mental health that many people choose not to visit a therapist even when they know that a trained and unbiased listener is exactly what they need. A therapist has tools for coping and dealing with mental health issues effectively, and for personal growth and development. Seek out the support and help that you need and deserve! In fact, making regular appointments with a counsellor or therapist is one of the nicest things you can do for yourself and self-care.
I will be kind to myself and practice self-compassion.
The way that you think affects how you feel, as well as how you behave. Does your self-talk sound like something you would never say to someone you care about? Beating yourself up when you make a mistake, calling yourself names, and criticizing your performance will only hold you back. Make a commitment to be kinder to yourself and to have a more compassionate inner dialogue. Talk to yourself the same way you would speak to a trusted friend. Treat yourself with respect!
I will become more aware of my feelings.
Your emotions influence how you interpret events and how you make decisions. Spend a few minutes every day thinking about how you are feeling. Name your emotions and acknowledge your feelings. When you become aware of how you are feeling, you can take steps to balance your emotions with a more logical mind or wise mind.
I will set healthy boundaries.
Sometimes we give other people too much power in our lives. Define your limits and communicate them to others respectfully. Let this be the year that you say so, directly and without anger. Remember it is alright to say “no.” Make it a resolution to become okay with saying no when you need to.
I will exercise regularly.
Does exercise sound like a physical health goal? In fact, there is lots of evidence that regular movement, especially outdoors, helps our mental health as well as our physical health. Put in a daily walk, run, bike ride, or swim into your calendar and stick to it. Feeling too low for a walk? Try going outside and move for three minutes, and then you can head home…if you still want to.
I will reframe negative thinking.
It is easy for us to figure that positive attitudes and happy thoughts are wishful thinking and that negative thoughts are realistic and practical. Actually, ruminating – going over and over the negative feelings and anxious thoughts that pop into our heads – is neither practical nor realistic. Tell yourself to “stop” thinking negatively either to yourself or out loud. Give yourself permission to think about why you are thinking negatively later in order to focus on the positive. Replace negative thinking with positive thoughts. Distracting ourselves with a hobby, exercise, or a puzzle is a healthier choice.
I will spend at least 15 minutes per day in quiet reflection.
It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. Without quiet time, how do you know how you are doing? Set aside 15 minutes every day to just think. Reflect on your day and think about what you want to do better tomorrow. Your quiet time could become the most instrumental part of your day.
I will establish a monthly goal for myself.
Pick a small, but challenging goal for the month. Write it down and tell someone else! Research shows that if you write down and communicate your goals that you increase the likelihood for success. Get specific and include details about how, when and where you will accomplish your goal. Each small goal will give you a step towards success and will help you to build confidence and motivate you to keep going.
I will identify three things I am grateful for every day.
Recognizing and appreciating the good things in life is a simple and effective way to build strength in your mental health. Research has linked gratitude to multiple benefits from improving sleep to reducing psychological distress. Writing a gratitude journal can be effective. Train your brain to start looking for the good things in life by identifying three things you are grateful for. By engaging in gratitude, you proactively ward off bad mental habits and self-pity.
I will get more sleep.
There is not a person in the world who is their best self on too little sleep. Try going to bed 10 minutes earlier each night for a few weeks. Eventually you will be getting an extra hour of sleep and feeling the mental and physical health benefits.
I will open up to the people I trust and care about.
Loneliness helps no one. Surround yourself with loving, supportive people. Open up to the people that you trust and that care about you. They want to know how you are doing and can also help when you are in need of support. Talking things through with your supports helps you to cope and deal with how you are feeling.
Try something new.
Don’t get too stuck in routines. Make 2018 the year you try at least one thing that scares and excites you a little bit, whether it’s finally doing that pottery class or just speaking up. You will feel accomplished and may actually find that you actually like that thing that terrified you last year.
Psychology & Counseling Associates. (2017). 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Mental Health. Psychology & Counseling Associates. [Web Page] Retrieved from https://www.pca-nwa.com
Morin, A. (2017). 5 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Help You Build Mental Strength In 2017. Forbes. [Web Page] Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com
Scott, E. (2015). 20 New Year’s resolutions for better mental health in 2016. Metro News. [Web page] Retrieved from http://metro.co.uk
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