Five Mental Health Resolutions for the New Year

3…2…1… Happy New Year! Vibrant fireworks, the countdown to midnight, and the sound of clinking glasses raising a toast are all a part of the ushering in of the New Year. But, there is one more piece that completes the quintessential New Year experience: resolutions.

Making resolutions for the upcoming year is a bit of a tricky business. Most people create resolutions they may only hold on to for a few weeks; others don’t even bother with making them at all. If one thing is for certain, most resolutions are created with one’s physical health in mind. Losing weight, eating healthier, and joining a gym are typically popular resolutions. But, physical health is not the only important thing people can strive for in the New Year; mental health is equally as important.

How about a few ideas for this year’s mental health resolutions?

1. Invest in relaxation.

Relaxation hardly feels like a resolution to most. In today’s world, the workplace and other everyday activities consume us. It is important to know when to step away and take time for yourself. This can be in the form of refusing to answer work emails after hours, spending more time with family, or having a “me” day. If relaxation seems like a paradoxical resolution, think of it as a rejuvenation period that will ultimately lead to increased productivity in everyday life.

2. Take the first step towards therapy.

Therapy is most definitely not the easiest relationship to initiate. Most people spend months contemplating the thought of beginning therapy before picking up the phone to make that first appointment.

3. Consider having an “unplugged” day of the week.

Social media and technology have seemed to take over the world these days. Faces are illuminated by cell phones’ brightness, fingers are busy click-clacking on laptops, and headphones blast music: these are the typical sights and sounds in a coffee shop or on the subway. In the midst of trying to stay connected, humans are having difficulty actually connecting. When researchers studied the significance of technology and social connections, they found that increased dependence on technology can have negative consequences in terms of increased loneliness and addiction (Palmer et al., 2014). To unplug means to eliminate the use of the television, phone, and laptop for a set period of time. 2017 can be the year of face-to-face social connections.

4. Forgive.

This may seem like a strange resolution at first, but forgiveness does wonders for psychological well-being. Is there something that has been weighing you down or constantly on your mind? Forgiving others or one’s self is not a simple task. It may take months to enter into the forgiveness process. According to a study on self-forgiveness and mental health, Davis et al. (2015) found that self-forgiveness robustly predicts psychological well-being sometimes even more so than other-forgiveness. Forgiveness is not something that we do for others; it is something we do for ourselves.

5. Sleep.

The “just one more episode” mentality often leads to a 2am bedtime and a sluggish, depressed mood in the morning. Let 2017 be the year of healthy sleep schedules! A good night’s rest does more for one’s mental health than most people realize. From memory consolidation to improved mood, a proper eight hour sleep has wonderful mental health benefits, and it won’t have you blindly grabbing for caffeine the next morning.

References

Davis, D. E., Ho, M. Y., Griffin, B. J., Bell, C., Hook, J. N., Van Tongeren, D. R., & … Westbrook, C. J. (2015). Forgiving the self and physical and mental health correlates: A meta-analytic review. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 62(2), 329-335. doi:10.1037/cou0000063

Palmer, B., Boniek, S., Turner, E., & Lovell, E. D. (2014). Undergraduates, technology and social connections. College Student Journal, 48(2), 281-296.

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