What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?
The beginning of the year is a time to reflect on what you want to accomplish and improve over the next 12 months. Your resolutions don’t have to be about hitting the gym or losing weight, they can also focus on your mental health.
Haven’t made your 2021 resolutions yet? It’s not too late! Here are 5 mental health resolutions that you can start today.
1. Improve Your Mental Health by Focusing on Your Physical Health
Want to improve your mental health in 2021? Your physical health can play a key role in your overall mood. Your resolution can be as simple as adding an extra piece of fruit to your daily diet or cutting back on processed foods.
Here’s why: scientists have found that 90% of serotonin, a key chemical messenger in the brain, is produced in the gut. By reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, your body can produce more serotonin, which plays a role in mood, appetite and sleep.
Another way to improve your physical health is by working out at least five days a week. Not only will consistent exercise keep your heart healthy, it’s also an incredible mood-booster.
“Exercise increases blood flow in the brain,” Dr. Levy explained, which boosts production and availability of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. “The more neurotransmitters we have, the better we feel.”
Adding exercise to your day can be as easy as walking around the office or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Make a resolution to get moving this year!
2. Get Enough Rest
Do you find yourself sacrificing sleep for other activities? Well, 2021 will be the year to catch more zzz’s! Getting a healthy amount of sleep helps rejuvenate the body, helps it process information accumulated during the day and solidify memories.
Without enough sleep, you can become irritable and moody. In fact, people who suffer from insomnia are more likely to experience symptoms of depression or anxiety (the relationship, however, goes both ways).
“If you are sleep deprived, you can’t manage your mood,” said Dr. Ronit Levy, PsyD, clinical director of the Bucks County Anxiety Center in Newtown, Pennsylvania. “Even the most basic demands on your life are going to feel harder.” Learn more about sleep’s effects on the body and mind.
Will getting more sleep be your new year’s resolution? Then make sure to wind down at least thirty minutes before bedtime without any electronic devices. The National Sleep Foundation suggests getting between seven to nine hours of sleep each night for young adults.
3. Outline Your Top Priorities
One of your 2021 resolutions can be all about documenting your mental health. By writing down your thoughts, you can ease any stress or anxiety you’re feeling, according to Theresa Nguyen, a licensed clinical social worker and vice president of policy and programs at Mental Health America.
Writing down tasks, thoughts and concerns can help make them seem more manageable. Start by getting your preferred writing utensil and treating yourself to a new journal.
While your writing to-do lists or journaling about your day, another way to ease stress in the new year is to know your priorities and establish a plan to accomplish them.
“Think about your priorities,” Nguyen said. “They should really be aligned to your values.”
When you work towards things that don’t matter to you, it takes time away from accomplishing your goals, which can lead to feeling stressed, conflicted, anxious and even depressed, according to Dr. Levy.
Ready to hammer down your top priorities for the year? Whether they’re professional, personal or both, discover what matters most to you.
4. Take Care of Yourself
Thanks to social media and technology, it can feel impossible to unplug from the outside world. Without proper rest and relaxation, you’re bound to become a ball of stress. This year, make the resolution to put yourself first.
Whether you’re listening to music, pursuing a new hobby or watching Netflix, find a low-key activity that’s just for you!
5. Get Psychological Help if Needed
If you’ve been putting off seeing a mental health professional, we want to reiterate that there is absolutely no shame in seeking professional treatment for mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD.
“Depression and anxiety do not go away on their own,” Dr. Levy said.
Whether you choose to see a psychiatrist or counselor, take medication or explore cognitive behavioral therapy, there is no wrong way to get the help you need.
Make the new year the year you hammer down a date to go to therapy.