After the busy festive period, the New Year can be an excellent time for a fresh start, and a chance to begin the year with a healthy mind-set. You may already have some ideas for New Year’s resolutions – you may be planning on joining a gym, spending more time with family, looking for a new job or career path, or cutting back on the amount of junk food that you eat.
You may also be looking for ways in which you can improve your mental health in the new year. Here, we provide five top tips on how you can focus on your psychological wellbeing in the New Year, resulting in long-lasting benefits.
Five New year's resolutions for mental health
1. Cut down on drinking and avoid drugs
You may have been drinking more than usual during the party season, and may even have taken drugs during this time. However, these substances are incredibly harmful to both your physical and mental health. It’s well-known that alcohol is a depressant, which can negatively affect your mood, making you feel low and anxious. Depending on which drugs you misuse, the effects on your mental health can range from anything from depression, anxiety and euphoria, to long-term psychosis, hallucinations and delusions.
Alcohol and drugs can also lead to you developing a harmful addiction to these substances, whereby you become both physically and psychologically dependent on drinking or taking drugs in order to function effectively in your day-to-day life.
There’s a whole host of benefits associated with giving up these substances. This is why it’s so important to take steps to cut back on your drinking (or stop altogether), and avoid drugs completely, as a means of improving your mental wellbeing.
If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drug misuse, it’s crucial that you seek specialist support to help you to overcome your addiction. Priory offers a free, no obligation addiction assessment, providing you with the opportunity to explore your individual challenges, view our exceptional addiction treatment environments, and learn about the journey that you can take towards achieving abstinence and recovery.
2. Look after yourself physically, to feel better mentally
Your physical health and mental wellbeing are linked, and as such, there are lots of positive changes you can make to improve your physical wellbeing that will also result in psychological benefits.
Exercise boosts the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain, known as endorphins, which ultimately improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Try and make the effort to engage in some form of exercise every day, even if this is just going for a short walk, and it’s likely that you’ll feel better as a result, both physically and mentally.
It’s important to make a conscious effort to eat more healthily in the New Year, and try not to overeat. Not only does this have obvious physical health benefits, but a healthy diet that’s full of vitamins and nutrients can also have positive effects on your mental wellbeing. Research suggests that foods that are rich in folic acid (such as avocado and spinach), and omega-3 acids (such as salmon and tuna), can improve your mood and lower stress and anxiety.
It’s so easy when we’re feeling stressed or low to reach for the junk food, but you can help to alleviate some of these negative feelings by simply eating well.
Get plenty of sleep
It can be hard during our busy modern lives to get the right amount of sleep every night, particularly for individuals who work shifts, or for those with young children. However, the act of sleeping helps us to recuperate both physically and mentally, resulting in alertness and a positive mood the next day.
The average adult needs around eight hours of sleep a night to be fully rested. The following steps can help you to achieve this as often as possible:
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Instead of lying in at the weekend, try to get in the habit of waking up at the same time that you do during the week. This can help to establish a consistent and healthy sleep routine
- Try to avoid napping during the day, as this can mean that you struggle to get to sleep at night, and can have a negative impact on your routine
- Limit caffeine, sugar and alcohol before bed. These substances can make you feel anxious and jittery at night, and can prevent you from getting to sleep and staying asleep. You could also try and limit the amount of liquids you drink before bed, so you don’t keep waking up needing the toilet and then find it difficult to get back to sleep again
- Avoid electronic devices such as computers, mobiles and tablets within 30-60 minutes of your target bedtime. These devices give off light which can be overly stimulating and keep you awake. If you want to read before bed, make sure you read from an actual book or magazine, as opposed to a screen. Again, these steps can improve the quality of your sleep
3. Get yourself 'out there'
For many, January in particular can be a miserable month – Christmas is over, you may be eagerly waiting for your next payslip, and the dark nights and poor weather can mean that all you want to do is stay at home. However, staying indoors and potentially isolating yourself, can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to actively look for ways to get yourself ‘out there’ in the New Year. You could try joining some form of group or club, based on something you enjoy or something you’ve always wanted to try. For example, you could join a book club, a sports team or try volunteering. Not only will this help you to get out of the house and tackle the ‘January Blues’, but you may end up making new friends, increasing your confidence, and finding a positive hobby that you can continue all year round, thus improving your overall mental health and wellbeing.
4. Practise self-care
It’s so important to practise self-care as a means of improving your mental health. It can be easy to focus on the needs of other people in your life at the expense of your own needs, but taking just a small amount of time for yourself can be hugely beneficial to your psychological health.
Plan time for yourself
Try and plan some time for yourself as often as possible. Even just doing small things that you enjoy such as having a hot bath, reading a magazine or book, or listening to your favourite music, can help you to ‘re-charge’ and improve your mood. Set time aside for this each day, or a few times a week, so these activities are something that you can look forward to.
Discover what makes you happy
Develop an understanding of the places, people and activities that make you happy and bring enjoyment to your life. Then try to include as many of these as possible within your daily life, in order to boost your mood and wellbeing. You could even write these things down and refer to your list whenever you’re feeling low, anxious or stressed, as a reminder of all of the positive things in your life.
Stop being so hard on yourself
It’s so easy for us to be self-critical and hard on ourselves, which can have a negative impact on our levels of resilience, self-esteem and wellbeing. If you find that you beat yourself up over small things, and engage in negative self-talk, ask yourself whether you’d say the same things to another person. If the answer is ‘no’, then why would you say them to yourself? Instead, try to re-frame your negative thoughts so they’re helpful and conducive to positive mental health.
5. Consider taking a break from social media
There’s no doubt that social media has interconnected much of the world and can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. However, with increasing use, social media has the potential to have a negative effect on mental health.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram can increase stress levels and have a detrimental impact on mood due to the fact that they encourage us to compare our lives to the lives of other people. Therefore, when you see others’ seemingly ‘perfect’ day-to-day lives, this can lead you to feel inadequate that you’re not able to match them.
As a way of starting off the New Year on a positive note, you could try logging out of your social media accounts and evaluating the impact that this has on your general mood, stress and anxiety levels and overall wellbeing. You might find that you’re much happier without having a constant insight into other people’s lives. In addition, without the incessant scrolling on your phone or tablet, you may find that you’re able to spend an increasing amount of quality time with your family and enjoy your leisure time more than ever.
If you find that you are struggling with a mental health problem, it’s important to recognise that specialist mental health support is available. Contact Priory today to find out how we can help you to overcome your challenges and take steps towards the healthy and fulfilling life that you deserve.
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