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New Year's Resolutions for your Mental Health

Updated: Jan 14

Practical Ways to Strengthen your Mental Health in 2024

As 2023 comes to an end, so begins the season of looking forward to what's ahead in 2024. A time when hope, fear, expectation, worry can all collide as we try to envision this new year and all it has in store for us. In the midst of wondering and planning for this new year, take some time to include plans for your mental health. Make some new year's resolutions for helping improve, manage, and promote your mental health in 2024. Read below for some resolutions that can help strengthen your mental health journey in the new year.

Resolution 1: Increase Weekly Physical Activity

Probably one of the most clichéd new year's resolutions is to go to the gym more. Gym attendance soars the first few weeks of every year, but often those numbers begin dropping as people struggle with keeping up with that new routine for a variety of reasons. This first mental health resolution centers around physical health, but it looks different than the average 'get healthy this year' resolution. Physical activity and just overall movement of the body has proven to help reduce stress, increase levels of serotonin, and boost overall emotional health.

Instead of creating a resolution that feels more like a burden and feels like it will be impossible to sustain over time, start with something more manageable. Physical activity does not solely look like going the gym, doing cardio, and lifting weights. Find an activity that you find enjoyable. Go for a walk, dance, go hiking, do Pilates, jump rope, or if you do enjoy it, go to the gym. Incorporate a new physical activity into your weekly routine that feels manageable and above all enjoyable. Do it, not with physical goals and benchmarks attached, but with the mindset of moving your body to help your mental health.

This can help take off the pressure of trying to move your body so that you can lose weight, look different, or meet certain beauty standards that have become burdens in your life. Add a physical activity that is purely for your mental health. Remove any restrictions on how long it has to be, where it has to be, and what it has to look like so that you can feel the freedom to just move your body with the goal of enjoyment and improving your overall mood.

*If you also wish to create resolutions solely focused on your physical heath, do it with grace and kindness towards yourself. Just try to still find an activity that you can do that focuses not on physical goals but mental health goals. Prioritizing physical health is great, and focusing more on improving your mental health through physical health might make it feel like less of a burden/challenge and more of a self-care routine. *

Resolution 2: Go Outside Once a Day

For some people, this resolution may seem pointless if they have to go outside every day to get to and from work. This resolution, however, is not just about going outside as part of everyday routine, but more about intentionally being outside for the purpose of getting some sunlight and some fresh air. If you make a quick 30-second walk to your car twice a day, then stay inside at work the rest of the time, you didn't really have the time to really soak up the benefits of getting some sun and fresh air. A lack of these can negatively impact your emotional and mental health, especially if you go several days without much of them.

This doesn't mean you need to now find an extra hour in your day just to be outside, but maybe you can squeeze five minutes of outdoors time into your daily routine. Walk to the mailbox, sit out on a patio, or make a full-on activity out of it like going to a park or spending time with family playing a game outside. Whatever you can find the time to do, and that can naturally be incorporated into your regular routine, do it.

I personally work inside all day from home, and I have experienced a struggle with sadness, irritation and overall disrupted emotional/mental health when I have gone several days without much sunlight and time outside. They may seem like small needs in your overall health, but if you begin to increase your time outside, you will likely be surprised and begin to see some improvements in your mood and mental health over time, even if it's just a small improvement (any growth is still impactful).

Resolution 3: Find a Creative Outlet

Early on in my counseling journey, my discomfort with emotions became prominent. My counselor suggested that perhaps finding a creative way to process and pour out my emotions would help me tap into a side of my brain that me, being a more logical and analytical person, is not used to tapping into.

If you sometimes struggle to process certain emotions, or struggle with feeling the need to let out your emotions without having a proper way to do it, or you wish to simply just quiet the mind, find a creative activity that helps you pour out your thoughts and feelings. Paint, draw, color, journal, dance, sing, sculpt. Choose something that you can have fun doing, that you find calming to do, and that you have time to do. Then decide if you would like to incorporate it as a daily routine, a weekly one, or an as needed one for when days feel long and rough and you just need a way to let out some steam and process what you're feeling and thinking. You may even find a new hobby you enjoy and want to regularly do.

*Make sure in the process of doing this you don't see it as an assignment or put the pressure of needing to be perfect at the creative activity you choose. The goal is not to perfect your painting or writing abilities, the goal is simply to find a new way of processing emotions and thoughts that might prove effective and calming. *

Resolution 4: Consider Asking for Help

Sometimes, and often times, we all just need a little help. That can look like seeking out professional help and finding a counselor/therapist who can come alongside you in your healing journey. It can also look like leaning on community. If you have trusted friends or family members that you feel would be safe spaces to reach out to for help, think about doing so this year. It's critical to consider where they are in their own mental health and try your best to refrain from trauma dumping, but it can be so helpful for you to just let someone know you're struggling and that you need some help. For example, maybe think about setting up a weekly coffee with a friend who can check-in on you and see how you're doing.

Think about your struggles and what you need. Consider if someone trusted and safe in your life might be able to meet that need, and seriously ask if they have the ability/capacity to meet that need. If they don't, be kind and gracious, and consider asking someone else. If you struggle to find someone that you feel comfortable enough turning to for help, or they don't have the capacity to help, a mental health professional can be a great source to turn to.

I chose to seek professional counseling when I felt like I could not comfortably express what I was struggling with to the people around me. It didn't mean I didn't have loving and trusting people in my circle, it just meant that I felt I needed an outside party who could effectively help me understand and process what I was going through. They could give me tools on how to address and heal those struggles that the people in my life did not have or know about. Whoever it is, take this new year as an opportunity to reach out and let someone, or even a few people, come alongside you in your mental health journey to help support you.

Wherever you are in your mental health, we all have room for improvement and ways that we can prioritize our mental health daily. The new year typically comes with a lot of pressure to meet ours or other people's expectations and goals. These resolutions are not meant to be added burdens of things you feel you have to do, but rather simple and practical tips that if implemented might help you experience less pressure and more stability when it comes to your mental and emotional health. Try one, try them all, or try none, the most important mental health resolution you can make and keep this new year is to just care for your mental health, however that looks. I wish you a very happy and safe new year and pray you experience joy, blessings and peace in 2024.

*** Anything written in this blog is based on my own personal experience and not a professional opinion. If you or someone you know is struggling with any mental health issue, please speak to a professional. For a list of some mental health resources and contacts available to you, please download the file below. ***

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