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10 Realistic New Year's Resolutions to Improve Your Mental Health

Whether you’re struggling with a mental illness or want to protect your mental health, here are 10 achievable New Year’s Resolutions for you to consider if you want to improve you mental health in the new year.

1. Love yourself just the way you are.

“You will not be happier if you lose 10 pounds, quit smoking, or start a new relationship,” writes Joel L. Young M.D. “Sure, there might be an initial rush, but happiness does not come from achieving distant future goals. Indeed, believing that it does can be an impediment to happiness in the here and now, particularly if you fail to meet your goals month after month, year after year.”

“You deserve to feel good about yourself right now, no matter where you are on your journey,” adds Young. “You deserve happiness now. If you struggle to believe that, it’s time to seek help from a therapist to understand why.”

2. Commit to being more physically active.

Year after year the top New Year’s Resolution for most people is to lose weight or become more fit. Besides obviously being beneficial to your physical health, exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your mental well-being thanks to the release of endorphins.

Unfortunately, this is also on the top broken resolutions. Often this is because this goal is too unrealistic and ambitious. How likely are you really going to visit the gym daily? Instead, start small. Go for a 15-minute walk after lunch or park further away when going to work or shopping. Maybe make a plan to go to the gym at least once a week with a friend or family member and work your way up.

3. Schedule a mental health checkup.

Don’t let the stigma surrounding mental health or therapy prevent you from seeking help when you need it. Be more open about how you feel to friends or family. Join a support group. Or talk to your physician or find a therapist who can provide you with the tools needed to improve your mental health.

4. Feed your mind.

“Scientists have discovered an important link between gut health and mental health. Ninety percent of serotonin–a key chemical messenger in the brain–is produced in the gut, Dr. Levy notes. It’s thought that reducing inflammation in the digestive tract can help your body produce more of this chemical, which plays a role in mood, appetite, and sleep. (In fact, people with depression often have lower-than-normal serotonin levels, says the National Institute of Mental Health.)

Resolve to: Cut back on processed foods. Add an extra piece of fruit to your daily diet.”

5. Make sleep a priority.

Besides impacting your health, poor sleep habits can also lead to depressive symptoms. In the New Year, make improving the quality of your sleep a priority. You can start by having a consistent time when you go to bed and wake up. You can also establish an evening routine that will encourage a better night’s rest, like reading and avoiding electronics at least an hour before going to bed.

6. Start a new hobby -- or revisit an old one.

Hobbies are an excellent way to reduce stress and improve your happiness. Pick-up a new hobby, or revisit an old one, this year. Just make sure that it’s something that you enjoy and that you’re able to follow through with. Like exercise, start small by setting aside a couple of minutes each day to your hobby.

7. Learn how to meditate.

Meditation is one of the best ways to improve your mental health as it encourages you to live and enjoy the moment. Meditating also gives you the chance to disconnect and unplug from stressful areas of life like social media or work.

8. Practice gratitude.

Gratitude has the power to make us happier, improve our relationships, strengthen our emotions, and increase our self-esteem. Best of all, it doesn’t have to be all that time-consuming. For example, at the end of the day, you could either reflect or write down the one thing you were thankful for during the day.

9. Let go and move forward.

We all experience physical or emotional pain. But, part of the healing process is to learn from the experience and move forward in a growth-oriented way. And, you can do that by:

  • Creating a positive mantra to counter any painful thoughts.

  • “Creating physical or psychological distance between ourselves and the person or situation can help with letting go for the simple reason that we are not having to think about it, process it, or being reminded of it as much,” suggests clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D.

  • Showing yourself compassion and kindness.

  • Not ignoring your feelings, but letting them flow by journaling or speaking with a therapist.

  • Implementing self-care to your daily routine.

  • Surrounding yourself with a positive support system.

  • Giving yourself permission to forgive.

10. Establish boundaries.

“Sometimes we give other people too much power in our lives. Letting our significant others, our kids, or our bosses make our lives more difficult can masquerade as kindness, but it’s not always good for us. Define your limits at work, at home, and in other relationships. Maybe you’re not willing to do personal errands for your boss, to lie for your spouse, or to accept verbal abuse from your friends. Let this be the year you say so, directly and without anger.”

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