What changes can you make to your everyday life in order to encourage good mental health in the following year?
There is no time quite like the start of a new year to take control back of your life; to join the gym, to start that hobbies you’ve always dreamed about and to stop procrastinating and work towards progressing in your career.
However, the New Year also presents us with the option to make improvements to our mental health. Around the world, a new year signifies a new start and for many of us is the kick in the behind that we need to be proactive in seeking our desires.
But if you are thinking about making changes this January that could help with your mental health – how do you make sure you stick to your resolutions and how do you know what will help?
Around one in four people in the UK suffer with their mental health at some point in their lives, however only around one in eight adults receive mental health treatment in the UK, and of those suffering with “common” mental health disorders around one in three adults seek professional help.
It is a common misconception that we should wait before seeking help with our mental health, to see if it blows over or solves itself – however a number of different studies have found the sooner you seek help for your mental health, the more effective therapy can be. Other studies have found that regular therapy taken by those who don’t or aren’t currently suffering with their mental health, often prevented mental health issues from arising.
Don’t Take on Too Much
As the New Year rolls around, it can be all too easy to overload ourselves with restrictions and rules in order to keep up with the social pressures of keeping our new years’ resolutions. If you’re trying to change your diet, lose weight, get fitter, stop smoking, progress in your career, start yoga, include daily medication, stop drinking and to go vegan – it’s likely all of your resolutions will be long forgotten before January is over (and another three months of paying for a gym membership you never use before facing the embarrassment of cancelling it).
Often the key to sticking to new years’ resolutions is aiming for achievable goals. Rather than trying to lose weight, diet and join the gym – try to simply live healthier; take the stairs instead of the lift, try to include five fruits and vegetables in your three meals a day and cut out meat on weekdays so you don’t cave at your first Sunday roast. Restricting ourselves from all of our favourite foods and committing to restrictive schedules that leave us feeling overtired and unenergised is often too much after a few weeks and rather than just dropping one or a couple of goals from our list, we often give up all together.
January is one of the busiest months in the gym, with millions of people up and down the country – and across the globe – handing over their bank details and signing up for a yearlong membership in their local gym (again). However, for those of us who are already pushed for time – juggling kids, work and keeping the house somewhat clean – getting up two hours early to fit in the gym is often something that we can only commit to until the first time we sleep through our alarm and never return again.
However, a number of different studies have found that just 30 minutes of exercise, four times a week, can make a significant improvement in both improving poor mental health and preventing mental health from deteriorating. So how should you fit in two hours of exercise per week?
Taking the stairs over the lift, walking to work once a week, downloading a fitness app or watching YouTube workout videos are all great – and free – ways to get fitter in the new year, whilst improving your mental health. Unlike a gym there is no pressure of being in public, you can participate at any time of day or night and it’s not costing you an arm and a leg if one day you just don’t feel like taking part.
Change your Diet
Going on a diet and changing your diet are two very different things. Many diets require people to cut out groups of food in order to lose or gain weight, well as changing your diet often focuses on just simply eating healthier without completely cutting out the treats you love.
In a number of different studies, sugar has been found to cause or worsen a number of different mental health conditions – including depression. However, sugar is often what we reach for when we’re feeling down – and for a good reason, when our body enters fight or flight mode (often experienced by those suffering with anxiety) the hormone that sends bloods to our major muscles, is only stopped by its return to the brain – or the consumption of sugar.
Cutting sugar out completely – for many people – is impossible, however lowering your sugar intake and trying to eat three healthy, balanced meals every day can make a huge difference to both your physical and mental health, and skipping that breakfast doughnut can do wonders for that 11am sugar crash.
There is never a wrong time to think about starting therapy, however as you start a new year and realise your goals for the next twelve months, a therapist can be a great guidance in helping you to achieve them, alongside maintaining your mental health and improving your relationships with your loved ones, friends and colleagues.
If you’re thinking about improving your mental health this new year, online therapy could be a great way for you to introduce therapy into your everyday life – without interrupting your busy schedule. My Online Therapy’s unique online platform is the UK’s first professional interactive therapy platform – meaning you can access the same great therapy you would expect from a traditional clinic, from wherever works for you – whether it be your sofa on your day off, your office on your lunch break or even in the shed at the end of the garden when your family are busy in the house.
Online Therapy is often a lot more affordable than therapy through traditional clinics, and unlike the NHS doesn’t carry long waiting lists or impossible commutes to attend sessions. Learn more about My Online Therapy and how it can help you to improve your mental health this new year through our website or on our online app which can be downloaded from any app store.