Mental Health in the New Year: How to Make the Most of Your Fresh Start
- Put mental health at the top of your New Year’s resolution list to improve your overall wellness.
- Setting achievable goals gives you a better chance of success when it comes to New Year’s resolutions related to psychological well-being.
- Practicing mindfulness, being physically active, and spending time outdoors tend to improve mental health.
- Don’t be afraid to seek professional support if you’re struggling with anxiety or depression this holiday season.
If this year has been tough on your mental well-being, seize the new year’s spirit of renewal and make mental health your top priority.
Most Americans tend to focus on weight loss, career goals, or quitting bad habits when it comes to New Year’s resolutions — but mental health should not be sidelined.
A healthy mind will elevate your self-esteem, attract positivity, and help you break those persistent bad habits. Don’t make the mistake of only writing ‘improve mental health’ on your New Year’s resolution list. To ensure success, you need to have a plan.
Why Should I Prioritize Mental Health This Coming Year?
People tend to prioritize physical well-being when making their New Year’s resolutions. Recent statistics show that 21% of Americans aimed to lose weight as a resolution in 2022 — but mental health is also important.
Mental health is centered around the social and psychological aspects of our lives.
Human beings are filled with complex thoughts and emotions — we are not preprogrammed to simply perform daily tasks.
Our ability to think, feel, and navigate various experiences is tied to our mental state.
Good psychological health gives us the resilience to process life’s challenges and helps us make wise decisions about the future.
It’s also widely known that mental and physical health impact each other.
As you step into the new year, it's essential to give both aspects the attention they deserve to ensure a balanced and holistic approach to your well-being.
How Does the New Year Affect Mental Health?
The new year can hugely affect your mental health. For many, it’s a time of promise and optimism.
For others, however, it serves as a reminder of the goals they failed to achieve and all the opportunities they’ve missed.
The holidays can be a tricky period to navigate, especially for those with existing mental health conditions. For example, people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are more likely to be affected by depression in the winter months around New Year.
Overconsumption of alcohol, financial stress, social anxiety, and processing the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship can also contribute to depression in the new year.
Why does the new year cause anxiety?
The new year often sparks a new wave of anxiety. During the holidays, many people take time to critically examine their finances, relationships, careers, and personal lives.
This can be a positive thing for some people, but it may also remind many of the past year’s failures, triggering stress and anxiety.
New Year’s is also a time when people tend to post pictures of their celebrations and achievements online, and it’s all too easy to compare ourselves to someone else’s highlight reel.
Research shows that increased time spent on social media also increases your risk of depression.
New Year’s Resolutions for Mental and Physical Health: Some Popular Options
If you’ve decided to improve your mental health as one of your New Year’s resolutions, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
Some general tips for better mental health include improving your self-care practices, spending quality time with loved ones, and limiting negative self-talk.
Having smaller goals will help you achieve those big goals you’re aiming for. A realistic checklist lets you track your progress and will help keep you motivated.
Engage in fun physical activities
Recent statistics reveal that mental health is a priority for 29% of adults, while a further 65% are committed to increasing their physical activity, which also has a positive impact on mental wellness.
The connection between mental well-being and exercise is well-documented, with physical activity being recognized as a powerful way to elevate mood and maintain good mental health.
Studies have shown that people who exercise regularly have improved self-esteem and mental health, but, in order to reap the benefits of physical activity, you should choose exercises you’re likely to stick to.
Opt for fun, low-intensity ways to keep active, such as:
- Going for a walk with a friend
- Participating in friendly tennis matches
- Swimming and dancing
- Joining a yoga class
When you do these activities with friends and family, they can hold you accountable and motivate you to achieve your wellness goals.
Practice mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness involves a keen awareness of your own thoughts, emotions, and sensations in the present moment.
This practice is highly beneficial for mental health, because it encourages regular self-reflection and self-awareness.
A heightened sense of self-awareness will help you deal with life's challenges. It will also teach you to be kinder to yourself when New Year’s Eve rolls around and you haven’t yet ticked off all the small goals on your checklist from the previous year.
You can practice mindfulness in different ways, including making lists of the things you’re grateful for, taking time to absorb your surroundings, or using a mental health app for mindfulness coaching.
Keeping a journal can also be a profound mindfulness practice, as it provides a space to anchor your thoughts.
Around 67% of Americans believe seeking therapy is a sign of weakness, but there’s no shame in asking for help.
If you're feeling stressed or not like your usual self, reach out to a professional.
Don’t wait until you have a nervous breakdown before seeking help. Contrary to sentiments in the U.S., therapy is like a regular health check-up — but for your mind.
Think of it as routine maintenance for your mental well-being.
Spirituality is the pursuit of a deeper meaning and connection with the universe.
It can be independent of religion and is often about personal growth and understanding life's bigger questions.
A deep sense of spirituality can give you peace and stability, which greatly improves mental health.
You can increase your spirituality by:
- Sharing meaningful experiences with others
- Being a part of a supportive community
- Regularly engaging in prayer or practicing meaningful rituals
Limit screen time
Limiting screen time gives your mind a chance to unwind and it allows you to focus without being overstimulated.
Research shows that decreasing your screen time by at least 30 minutes daily can positively affect your mood.
Less screen time has also been associated with a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.
Spend more time in nature
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), spending time in nature can improve cognitive functioning and relieve stress.
One theory suggests that spending time in nature allows your brain to decompress, slow down, and reset.
This leads to improved concentration and focus — think of it as a mini vacation for your mind.
Mental Health and Failed New Year’s Resolutions
When you fall short of your New Year's resolutions, it can take a toll on your mental health. The shortfall can trigger a wave of emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and sadness.
Not reaching your goals might lead you down a spiral of self-criticism and negative self-talk, reinforcing feelings of inadequacy and failure.
Many people may fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions, but you can accomplish more by focusing on new goals instead of fixating on breaking bad habits.
How Do I Achieve My Mental Health Goals This Year?
Making resolutions is only step one to achieving your goals. You also need to have a plan in place to make sure you achieve them.
Make a clear plan
Maximize your chances of success by focusing on one area of change at a time, rather than attempting to overhaul your entire life.
This will ensure that you don’t become overwhelmed by all the changes you’re making. Checklists and timelines can help you track everything. Set realistic goals
Set achievable health goals by making small, practical changes, like swapping out a meal or ingredient for a healthier option, rather than trying to quit all unhealthy foods at once.
For example, start by substituting soda with sparkling water or replacing a bag of chips with some fruit. Remember, good nutrition is also vital for good mental health.
Be smart and set realistic goals when it comes to both your mental and physical health.
Focus on nourishing your body
Your food is your fuel, so be mindful of what you eat and opt for bright, colorful vegetables. Remember to chew slowly and savor each bite — this aids digestion and prevents you from overeating.
Here's how to tune in to what's on your plate and maximize health benefits:
- Go green: Greens, like spinach and broccoli, contain vital, mood-boosting vitamins.
- Pick purple: Purple produce (like beets and blueberries) are great for the brain and fighting inflammation.
- Opt for orange/yellow: Bright foods, like sweet potatoes and lemons, support immune and nerve health.
- Reach for red: Red fruits and veggies, like tomatoes and strawberries, aid in managing cholesterol and blood pressure.
By maintaining a diet rich in these colorful foods, you will support both your mental and physical health by improving brain function and reducing inflammation.
For better sleep and overall health, establish a bedtime routine and maintain good sleep hygiene:
- Avoid daytime napping
- Limit caffeine consumption several hours before bedtime
- Swap screen time with reading or listening to a podcast an hour before sleep
- Exercise regularly -– but not right before bedtime to avoid extra energy when settling down for the night
Enjoy quality time with friends and family
Nurturing relationships with friends and family is crucial for a fulfilling life. A strong support network transforms challenges into manageable tasks and reassures you that you’re not alone.
It also helps to have your loved ones around during the holiday season and to confide in them if you’re struggling with mental health or the pressures that come with the new year.
Where Can I Get More Support to Achieve My Mental Health Goals in 2024?
If you’re struggling with anxiety or other aspects of your mental health. LifeMD is here for you.
LifeMD can connect you to a team of medical professionals who can provide you with tools to remove self-doubt and improve your self-esteem in the new year. Make your appointment today to get started.
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