New Year’s is a time where many people make resolutions. “I’m going to lose weight,” or “I’m going to quit smoking” are two of the popular resolutions, but what about mental health? Less commonly do people make resolutions for their mental health beyond a simple phrase such as “be happier.” But, if you are one of the 43.8 million adults in the United States who experiences mental illness (NAMI, 1999), you might benefit from some resolutions toward improving your mental health.
Here are some possible changes to pursue:
- Make sleep, diet, and exercise a priority. Snickers has a popular series of commercials where a celebrity is acting in an angry, irritated, or frustrated manner until they are given a Snickers because they become emotional when they are hungry. After taking a bite of the Snicker bar, the person returns to his or her typical self. While I (and I’m sure our dietitians) would agree that sugar isn’t the answer, these commercials do have a point: our physical health impacts our mental health. When we are tired, hungry, fatigued, or inactive, our mental health suffers. Resolve to make simple changes to your habits this year: get more sleep, eat more fruits and vegetables, go on more walks. Try to build on choices you make that are already healthy.
- Think positive. This sounds cliché, but there is evidence to suggest that optimism improves our life. The Mayo Clinic reports on their website that optimism has been connected to longer life span, decreased depression, decreased distress, reduced cardiovascular disease, and improved coping skills. Unsure of how to start thinking in a positive manner? Begin with creating a daily affirmation for yourself. Waking up and saying “Today is going to be a good day,” can lead you to viewing the day in a more positive light. If you have a specific stressor you are worried about, trying envisioning how that problem will go well instead of how it can go wrong.
- Seek help. In 2012, ABC News reported that only about 60% of people with mental illness received professional help. Professional help is available in a variety of ways, from counseling to medication to support groups. If you are unsure where to go or what method is best for you, start with speaking with your doctor about the issue.
Mental illness is a difficult challenge for many people, but the New Year is a great time to make positive changes. Even if you aren’t dealing with mental illness, perhaps pursuing one of the above resolutions can make your 2017 a more positive and enjoyable year.