New Year’s Mental Health Resolutions
by Dr. Kristyn Gregory
| 3 min read
Setting goals for the new year is always an inspiring time – especially when we see others around us committing to big things like running a marathon, exercising regularly or prioritizing their nutrition. But goals don’t always have to be physical, like exercising more or eating healthier. Setting a resolution to prioritize mental health is an important step in supporting your overall health and wellbeing.
This is especially timely because it’s so easy to get off track when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: out of the 60% of adults who make a resolution, only 8% keep them. And the discouraging feelings that come as a result often lead to negative self-talk and thoughts. A negative inner monologue can lead to inconsistency – while a positive mindset can have the opposite effect.
The power of positivity
We know that feelings of optimism and gratefulness can affect a person’s overall mood and help them cope with everyday stresses and challenges. Finding intentional ways to boost mental health can start small, like engaging in positive self-talk or expressing gratitude each morning.
Here are some mental health goals to try incorporating:
- Affirmations: Incorporate reminders like “I am confident” and “I am capable” – affirmations that can foster personality traits that positively influence feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
- Practice gratitude: Write down a list of things that bring feelings of thankfulness.
- Reach out: Ask for help when needed.
- Meditation: Take 10 minutes in the morning to quiet the mind and focus on the present.
- Try something new: Adding in variety can improve self-esteem and confidence.
- Start a mindfulness practice: Mindfulness is the art of being fully present – going about daily activities with purpose and awareness without being overwhelmed, judgmental or reactionary.
When setting goals for the new year – whether it be for mental health or otherwise – it’s easy to fall into the same traps year after year of overcommitting to a lofty goal, and then being let down when reality falls short. Here are some tips for goal setting:
- Don’t set the bar too high: Making an unrealistic goal won’t set anyone up for success.
- Break up one big goal into small chunks: For example, a goal of losing 25 pounds would be overwhelming. Instead, try breaking that goal up into achievable steps – like losing two pounds a month. Completing this smaller goal each month can help someone build momentum towards the larger goal.
- Success won’t come right away: Just because someone starts exercising or meditating Jan. 1 doesn’t mean they’ll have the body they want or a handle on their stress by Jan. 10. Resolutions are about how someone wants to look or feel by Dec. 31 – and there’s an entire year to get there.
- Set a goal that doesn’t cause dread: If the idea of the goal gives the “ugh” feeling, why set it? New Year’s resolutions don’t have to mean 5 a.m. workouts at the gym. They can be as simple as adding fun or joy to life by making time for hobbies, family or friends – all moments that can improve mental health.
Make self-care a priority
Whether it’s a resolution or not, making time for self-care is a great way to set things up for a great year ahead. Self-care activities can be working out at a gym, cooking a healthy meal, taking time for a hobby – or even scheduling a routine appointment with a doctor or dentist. Self-care can also mean setting boundaries, adding breaks into the day for reading, meditation, or committing more to social activities.
Reaching mental health goals this year doesn’t have to be something individuals do alone. Just as an individual may seek out a doctor for help with a physical illness, mental health professionals are there to help with emotional challenges.
Kristyn Gregory, D.O., is a medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
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