Many New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on physical health – exercising more, eating better, losing weight. While there’s nothing wrong with this type of resolution, after an especially hectic and stressful year, deciding to focus on emotional and mental health could be a more beneficial approach.
Mental health encompasses many facets of health, including emotional, psychological and social wellness. Go for a different take on the idea of “new year, new you,” and focus on a mental reset and your emotional well-being this year.
Addressing Your Mental and Emotional Health
Just as mental health “affects how we think, feel and act,” according to MentalHealth.gov, “it also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others and make choices.”
It’s no secret that stress affects us all, but following the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more people – from every age group – have reported struggling with mental health.
“The number of people looking for help with anxiety and depression has skyrocketed,” according to the latest report from Mental Health America. “The number of people screening with moderate to severe symptoms of depression and anxiety has continued to increase throughout 2020 and remains higher than rates prior to COVID-19.”
One of the best ways to improve mental health is by making informed, healthy choices that support both your physical and emotional well-being. Thankfully, there are plenty of coping and relaxation techniques you can try from the comfort and safety of home as well as resources you can access online.
Prioritize Your Mind, Time and Relationships
Focusing on the activities, people and causes/organizations that make you feel happy and engaged is a key part of a successful mental reset.
Engage Your Brain
Identify the major stressors in your life and manage stress better with the four As: avoid, alter, accept and adapt. When it comes to resolutions, consider focusing on work-life balance – especially if you’re still working from home – and try giving yourself more free time.
Then, make the most of any spare time by doing activities to better yourself. Learning something new – like a language, recipe or photography technique – or playing brain games can help you deal with stress and better your mental health.
Connect With Others
The pandemic brought quarantines and social distancing, making in-person connection with non-household members risky and difficult. Having a support system – or a network of people who care, respect and support you – is an essential part of emotional well-being.
Stay connected to your support system by continuing to text, make phone calls and host video chats. Also, spend some quality time (away from screens) with household members or roommates. Play games, get creative together or simply have a conversation.
Although we still don’t know exactly what the future holds, make loose plans with others. Going to a park, hiking trail or other low-risk, outdoor activity once warmer weather returns is a nice thing to look forward to.
Try to Stay Positive
Being optimistic isn’t always easy, especially during times of uncertainty. Try to focus on things that bring you happiness, like baking, dancing, singing or making art. Watch your favorite uplifting movie or spend some quality time with a pet, your child or significant other.
Make yourself feel better inside and out with some self-care, too. Give yourself a DIY spa day with a relaxing bath, new facemask or foot scrub. Start meditating or writing a list of things you’re thankful for and/or would like to try in the future.
Finally, remember this pandemic will eventually end. We may have to adjust to a new form of normal – one that’s more conscientious of health – but the hope of a better tomorrow is something to smile about.
Do Good Deeds
It’s no myth that making others happy can help you feel happier too. Engaging in meaningful activities or becoming an active participant in your community can help your mental and emotional health.
If the pandemic is still a risk, start small with tending to houseplants or gardening when the weather gets nicer. Take care of the planet by picking up litter, or choose to improve the life of an animal by fostering, adopting or donating to a shelter.
While some in-person volunteer opportunities may have to wait until the pandemic starts to wane, you can still volunteer your time safely through virtual volunteering, making charitable donations (like clothes, food, money and other supplies) and writing thank-you letters to essential workers.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Mental and emotional health are deeply intertwined with physical wellbeing. This means staying active, getting enough sleep and eating well can all help improve your mental health, too.
Just a bit of exercise can help improve your mood, make you feel more energized and potentially help you sleep more soundly at night.
Focusing on simply making yourself feel better – rather than counting calories or measuring your waistline – can also make exercise more enjoyable.
To start, go for low-impact exercises like yoga or these easy indoor senior workouts. Outdoor exercise like biking, hiking and walking are also great because they get you outside in the natural light and fresh air.
The effect of sleep on mood goes far beyond simply feeling grouchy in the morning. Getting enough rest is very important to overall mental and emotional health.
Not getting enough sleep can lead to obvious inconveniences, like low energy and irritability, but prolonged sleep deprivation can cause bigger issues.
“Studies in both adults and children suggest that sleep problems may raise risk for, and even directly contribute to, the development of some psychiatric disorders,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.
See these tips for getting better sleep.
Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet – not crash dieting – is important because certain nutrients – and lack thereof – can affect your mood and immunity.
“Multiple studies have found a correlation between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function – and even a worsening of symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression,” according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and eating enough high-quality foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 from health.gov recommends making (at least) half of all the grains you consume whole grains.
Mental and Emotional Health-Related Products
Whether it’s cleaning, cooking or crafting that keeps your calm, there are tons of gadgets to help you destress, stay fit and make the most of your time.
If your anxiety, depression or stress feels like too much to handle on your own, seek help from a mental heath professional or find a local organization with mental health expertise.
How do you want to improve your metal health this year? Tell us in the comments.