New years resolutions are great. That’s until they come crumbling down mid-month and we end up feeling worse about ourselves, rather than better.
It’s not the resolutions themselves that are the problem. Making promises to ourselves can be a powerful act – particularly when it involves intentionally moving in a more positive direction.
But it’s about being realistic.
So many new year’s resolutions are big in scope and vague on journey (what it’s going to take to get there).
Whatever we want to change, we need to get really clear on what that’s going to look like.
And whilst the typical new year’s resolutions like losing weight, stopping smoking, getting fit are all great… We’re missing one important aspect of our wellbeing – our mental health.
Mental and physical health tend to go hand-in-hand. So the more “in balance” we are when it comes to our mental and emotional health, the more ownership we have over our lives – and the easier it’s going to be to actually follow through with that change.
With this in mind, we’ve drawn up a few mental health resolutions to kick-start your new year on the right footing.
Mental health tips for the new year
Practice gratefulness – our brains have a negativity bias. Not only do we register negative information more readily but we also dwell on it for longer (a protection mechanism giving us the best chance of escaping harm). By writing down just three things you’re grateful for everyday and intentionally turning your mind to the positive, you can gradually retrain your mind away from this negativity bias.
As Elizabeth Gilbert has said so well,
“You need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select your clothes everyday. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control”.
Start each day with a 10 mins mindfulness meditation – we all have good and bad days, and a short mindfulness exercise at the start of your day will help provide you with a sense of what emotional state you’re in so you can create a day that is sensitive to how you’re feeling.
Start journalling – when we write, we’re engaging the left hand side of our brain (the rational and analytical side) which leaves room for the right hand side (the creative and intuitive side) to access our feelings without any blocks getting in the way. Journalling not only enables us to better understand ourselves and the world around us but it also allow us to process our emotions more fully.
Prioritise self-care by scheduling “me” time – if you find it difficult making time for yourself, block off time in your calendar in advance where you only do things for you.
Feel all the feels – many of us have spent a lifetime stuffing down uncomfortable emotions – to the detriment of our health. Try and make this year the year that you feel all the feels.
Get to know yourself better – start therapy. Self-awareness is going to give you a lot more control over your life.
Be kind to yourself – it’s thought that around 80% of our self-talk is negative. That means we’re giving ourselves a hard time almost all of the time… Start rooting for yourself instead this year. Make this year the year of self-compassion.
Practice healthy boundaries – do you have a difficult time saying no? If so, it might be time to reassess your boundaries. Make sure there’s not an imbalance in what you’re giving out to the world and what you’re taking for yourself. Saying no can be a powerful act of self-care.
Do more of the things you love – when responsibilities start mounting up, hobbies tend to be the first things we drop. But balancing responsibilities with the things that bring us a sense of wellbeing and enjoyment is essential when it comes to living a well-rounded life. Make time for the things you love.
Relax those unrelenting standards – are you a perfectionist? Always working late at the office? Find it hard to kick back and relax with friends? It may feel like you’re being productive but the truth is that you’ll never be able to perform at your best when you’re constantly pushing yourself… Over time, your energy resources will simply burnout. Commit to creating a better work/life balance where you celebrate “being” just as much as “doing”.
How to keep new years resolutions
Normally, it’s not the change itself that’s difficult, it’s maintaining that change. Over time, it’s easy to lose connection to the benefits of a new habit.
So whenever we want to enact change for the long haul, we always have to start with motivation. We need to get really clear on the reason for making change and why it matters to us.
Before doing anything, get clear on your motivations. Write them down and stick them up on your bedroom wall (somewhere you can clearly see) or you can try using a flashcard. This is going to give you something you can revisit and refer back to whenever you feel like you’re veering off track.
And start small. Many new year’s resolutions fall flat on their face simply because they’re too ambitious. When we set ourselves a task too big we’re likely to fail and end up feeling guilty – and there’s no benefit to that. Think big but break it down into small steps as much as possible.
And lastly, believe in yourself. Have the confidence to know that you can sustain this change. Of course, that’s not to say that there won’t be hurdles along the way but you can handle it – you can handle anything. Don’t give up.
As Barbara de Angelis says, the power rests with you:
“No one is in control of your happiness but you; therefore, you have the power to change anything about yourself or your life that you want to change”.