Improve your mental health in 2021 by setting realistic goals
It’s pretty common in the New Year for people to set well-intentioned “resolutions” for the purpose of self-improvement. The most popular examples of these being extreme diets, intense work-out regimens, and quitting vices like drinking and smoking cold-turkey. While these life-changes are all admirable and come with proven physical health benefits, it’s important for individuals to also remember their mental health going into the year 2021.
2020 was an exhausting and chaotic year for everyone. Despite the disruptions, uncertainty, disappointment, loss, and isolation, remember this: you made it through. The past year brought on so many lessons, and one of the most important ones is this perhaps that we all need to be kinder to ourselves.
When you take into account the mental rollercoaster of 2020, you may want to reconsider focusing your New Year’s resolutions on goals that can help preserve mental wellness, rather than creating unobtainable or mentally challenging goals that will only heighten feelings of worry, disappointment, and lower self-esteem.
Here are some ideas for New Year’s resolutions that are not only realistic in attainability but also beneficial to the wellness of our bodies and minds:
- 30-minutes of movement per day. Every year, people want to jump right into a strict workout routine that is several days a week and requires an aggressive, expensive, and/or time-consuming commute to a gym. However, it’s not that easy to pick up such an extreme change right away. Often times, this can result in one abandoning the gym early on and feeling down about not sticking to what was perhaps an unrealistic goal.
This year, try fitting in just 30-minutes of movement at least three times a week for the month of January. From there, you can gradually increase the number of days a week you work out or the amount of time you move for. Research shows that 30-minutes of exercise boosts your mood, reduces stress, and increases productivity.
- Limit screen time. The more people have stayed home in the last year, the more time they spend on screens has dramatically increased. A realistic way to cut back is by setting boundaries, like ruling out screen time after dinner or at least two hours before bedtime. After a long day of working on your computer, it will be a refreshing break to end your night before bed with the absence of electronics.
In addition to giving yourself time to be more mindful, there is also a chemical benefit to logging off earlier each day. Research shows that blue light from mobile screens actually prevents melatonin from producing, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Interrupted sleep and an increase of alertness make it harder to relax and has more serious long-term health negative health effects. Putting away the phones and computers after dinner will allow for a better night’s sleep and an improvement in well-being.
- Limiting alcohol. Indulging in a drink was the way many have coped with the uncertainty of 2020, but 2021 brings an opportunity to adapt to a more healthy routine. Instead of cutting out alcohol entirely (like some do with “Dry January”), try scaling back your drinking during the workweek and make it exclusively a weekend pleasure rather than an everyday vice. Alcohol-free days are linked to less anxiety and a boost in mood and energy levels.
- Connect virtually with family and friends more often. COVID didn’t magically disappear when the ball dropped at midnight on New Year’s Eve, which means it is important to continue social-distancing. Isolation has taken a toll on many of people, especially those who were already prone to depression and anxiety. Make it a resolution to video chat with family members or friends more frequently. It will not only maintain those relationships and connections but also boost your mental health (as well as theirs) by having those interactions.
- Practice gratitude. During a year filled with so much loss and anxiety, there are many things to be thankful for and various ways to practice gratuity. Whether it is writing thank you notes or writing three things you are thankful for every morning or night, practicing gratuity leads to increased happiness and resilience as well as a positive mindset. This, in turn, leads to less stress.
If you are concerned that your feelings of anxiety and depression are worsening in the New Year and you would like to speak to a professional, request an appointment with one of our providers today. If this an emergency, please dial 9-1-1.