A happy 2019 to you! It’s that time of the year again when we make a list (whether physical or mental) of things that we want to change in our lives. Most of the time, our New Year’s resolutions include saving money, traveling, and spending more time with our loved ones. We’ll also suddenly become more concerned about our physical health and swear we’ll enroll at the gym, start dieting, and focus on losing weight – and follow through this time!
Now, all of these are well and good. Anything that will create a positive change is definitely a great idea. But chances are, we’re ignoring one important aspect of our being: our mental health. By not paying enough attention to it, we may suffer unknowingly as time goes by. In fact, more and more people experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders and/or other mental health issues. Even if you are physically fit or financially comfortable, poor mental health will have a negative effect on you and your family’s life.
That’s why it’s time to finally direct your focus on your overall well-being. If you haven’t come up with any New Year’s resolutions to improve mental health, then we have some useful tips and suggestions to help you.
According to Mental Health Canada, sleep deprivation can cause depression. Extreme cases can lead to hallucinations and a state of paranoia even to seemingly healthy people. So, if you experienced depression episodes or mood swings, they may be due to that late-night work or screen time. Make it a priority to improve your sleeping habits this year.
What is considered a good length of sleep? Sleep requirement depends on your age. Teenagers need about nice hours of sleep per day, but for most adults, the ideal length of sleep is 7-8 hours. On the other hand, older people can do with shorter periods of sleep. Regardless of your age group, the number of hours will increase as you get deprived of sleep each day. You need to sleep longer the next few days as compensation to your “sleep debt.” That’s why the best thing to do is to maintain a healthy and consistent sleep schedule from day to day.
Do purposeful meditation
Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress is to forget everything for a short period and just focus on your well-being. You can do so by doing daily meditation. Allow yourself to pause for a moment and take a breather, so that you can refocus on your goals, priorities, and intentions. Meditation will help slow everything down to reduce your stress levels. Different apps (Headspace is a popular one, though there are many) can teach you 10-minute meditations, which you can do whether you are at home or in the office.
Aside from these apps, you can also download calming music that you can listen to whenever you are meditating. Make meditation part of your New Year’s resolutions to improve mental health this year – it can pay off in the form of long-term mental health benefits.
Get outside and exercise
Exercise has been proven to promote good mental health. It’s known to fight sadness and depression. That is because when you exercise, your body produces the chemical called Serotonin. It’s the hormone for happiness. Serotonin helps regulate mood and prevents you from getting irritable.
Sunlight makes your body produce Vitamin D, which in turn, helps the release of serotonin. So, once winter has faded away, start getting into outdoor activities like running, hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking; and outdoor sports like football and baseball. These are aerobic exercises that produce serotonin. Of course with Ottawa winters, sunlight is in short supply (and warmth is even less so, unless you’re headed south). Be mindful that anaerobic exercises like weight lifting and sprinting can make your body produce endorphins (natural painkillers) instead of serotonin, and factor this in when creating a fitness routine.
Eating healthy food is another one of the best New Year’s resolution to improve mental health. Food can be a powerful defense against anxiety and depression. Try to eat more of those that will help prevent mood swings, such as foods rich with amino acid tryptophan. Our body synthesizes tryptophan and converts it to the happy hormone, serotonin. Some of these tryptophan-rich foods are eggs, cheese, tofu, pineapple, corn and turkey.
An article from Healthline.com also mentioned that increasing your intake of healthy fats and vegetables, with moderate protein, will help deal with the common mental health problems. Amongst the different diets today, the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet specifically are the most metal health-friendly according to research.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on eating foods with healthy fats like salmon, tuna, nuts, avocados, cheese, and olive oil. It also emphasizes eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as protein-rich legumes. On the other hand, the DASH diet encourages minimal sugar intake. It means eating smaller amounts of cakes, ice cream, carbonated beverages (soda/pop) and other types of sweets. Start changing your diet this year and you will notice the improvements incrementally.
Find a Hobby
One way to improve mental health is to build your self-confidence, and a great step towards that is by mastering a hobby. Being proficient at something can boost your self-confidence and help defeat depression. You can either find a new hobby or get back to one you may have stopped doing somewhere along the way. Just remember to choose one that you find interesting and you’ll enjoy doing consistently over time. This will ensure that the hobby will bring you happiness instead of giving you more stress.
Some of the best hobbies to fight depression and anxiety include photography, woodwork, gardening, playing instruments, and traveling.
Take Time Off from Social Media
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram might be some of the greatest inventions of the 21st century. They help connect people all over the world. Social media also helps disseminate important news and information. However, they also bring a negative impact on our lives. They have a tendency to make individuals compare their lives to those of other people, creating feelings of envy and jealousy.
For some of us who are living alone and struggling with their lives, seeing other people’s happy social media posts can cause sadness. Perhaps it makes one feel incomplete, that their life is somehow not enough. If you feel the same way, then this year is the time to back away from social media. Don’t shut yourself completely, mind you. But give yourself some social media holidays. Start by taking a day off per week, until you get comfortable doing a week of social media a month.
You can also do a daily habit of ‘no social media’ at nights or when at work. The important thing is, you should refrain from looking at things that make you feel bad about yourself. But remember that you never have to compare yourself with others. You are enough. If you want to see some improvement in your life, that’s fine. Just make sure to do it for your own well-being, and not because you want to boast in social media.
Tackle a to-do list
Two of the many causes of poor mental health are thinking too much and cramming loads of information in your head. They make you feel anxious and stressed. A good New Year’s resolution to improve mental health is to get organized and create a to-do list. Write down all the things that you need to do either on a physical planner or a phone app. This way can clear your mind and focus on one task at a time. By making a to-do list, you’ll also be able to track your progress and see your accomplishments, which will good feeling about yourself.
Appreciate Good Things in Life
Life is full of highs and lows. Even the wealthiest people in the world will tell you that they too experience some bad things in life. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of life, turn your attention to the positive things and appreciate them. Be grateful even with the smallest things like good weather or a tasty dinner. Be grateful for your family and friends for sticking with you. Spend time with them. Doing so will help maintain a positive vibe around you and keep you happy.
More importantly, practice self-gratitude. Don’t be too hard on yourself if your efforts on something came up short on results. Instead, find ways to improve and give yourself some confidence that you are capable of anything. When you do something great, don’t forget to pat yourself from time to time and acknowledge the accomplishments you’ve made. Reward yourself for working hard. By doing so, the negative thoughts, anxieties, and sadness will leave. You’ll not only have better mental health, but also a happier life in general.
Improve Your Mental Health with Capital Choice Counselling
These New Year’s resolutions to improve mental health should get you started on creating a positive change in your life. Just remember that to successfully improve your mental health this year, you must make a decision to do it. These tips can only take you so far. Bringing the actual change is totally up to you. If you need any help, Capital Choice Counselling is here to help you. We have a team of skilled counselors from locations across Ottawa to help you with your personal situations.
Call us now or enquire online and start bringing real improvement to your mental health this new year.