By Adrian Sparrow
The New Year is an opportunity for a fresh start in life. New Year, New You, and similar phrases trend around this time of year, but what that looks like will be different for everyone. Depression runs rampant over the holiday season and into the new year, making preparing for the year that much more difficult. Whether you’re looking forward to a peaceful year or a stressful one, here are some tips to help you prepare while caring for your mental health in the process.
Be realistic: How many resolutions have you accomplished each year? Regular gym-goers know to work out after the first and second months of the year are over. The gyms are emptier because 80% of resolutions fail by February, including those who resolved to exercise more. It’s essential to set realistic expectations and goals and equally important to plan how you’ll meet these goals. Most resolutions fail because they’re too big and too vague. A goal is just a wish with stairs – you have to take small steps to reach the more significant destination. Whatever your goal, start small and write down each step towards the goal, and you’re much more likely to stick with it. Start the new year with plans in place for how you’ll tackle large projects and resolutions, so when it comes time to work, you already have a to-do list.
Connect with Loved Ones
Spending time with beloved friends and family will decrease feelings of loneliness and reinforce your support network. Use the new year as a fresh start for troubled relationships and consider apologizing or forgiving when possible. Don’t hold yourself back from a fruitful friendship because of bitterness, but you can also use this chance to walk away from more distressing ties.
Mindful Eating and Exercise
Instead of simply ‘eating healthier,’ choose to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet, and pay attention to your hunger cues. Be careful to eat only when you’re hungry, and trade out sugar and sodium-laden snacks for produce and nuts. With exercise-related goals, small steps are essential. “Lose 25 pounds” might seem an excellent resolution, but how are you going to do that? If your goal is to exercise more, start with small changes like taking a 10 minute walk each day, then a 30-minute walk, and add in some fun activities that interest you and keep your heart pumping. Weight loss will likely be a side effect of healthy lifestyle changes and will be easier to maintain long-term.
One of the best ways to protect your mental health is to find healthy ways to manage stress, if not eliminate the cause entirely. Meditation can help you stay calm both during and after difficult situations. “It provides a new perspective, helps manage stress, reduces negative emotions, and helps manage mental illness symptoms” (source). Certain significant stressors, like problems at work or issues in a relationship, may require professional help, but your physical and mental health can improve significantly.
Try New Things
Is there a new skill or hobby you’ve always wanted to try or a book or movie you’ve been dying to check out? New things bring variety to life, boost your confidence and mood, and you might discover a new passion in the process. Examine your existing practices with a fresh look, and find ways to change the usual to unique.
Be Kind to Yourself
View your resolutions as ways to grow, and know that failure is just a natural part of growth. Forgive yourself, and remember: we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Pace yourself, set realistic goals, ask for help, live for the moment, and look towards the future with optimism.