New year is the perfect time for a fresh start, to make new goals and for self-improvement. People like to make resolutions and targets for themselves to achieve in the year ahead, however more often these resolutions are quickly forgotten about a few months in. This is because people make unrealistic goals for themselves, they want to achieve it in too short a time frame and so when they have not achieved it in a couple of weeks, they get bored and give up. People in a way set themselves up for failure.
This year why not focus on a few small realistic goals that you can easily fit into your lifestyle, ones that will help boost your mood and in turn improve your mental health. We need to look after ourselves and our mind and small changes suited to us as individuals can have many positive effects.
Many people vow at the start of the year to join a gym, to go 7 times a week and sign up to 3 new fitness classes. This is a clear example of an unrealistic goal for many people, especially if you’re going from doing zero exercise to an excessive amount. Instead, try to add small amounts of exercise into your routine wherever you can. You could join a gym and ease yourself into going a couple of times a week, take part in an online workout from the comfort of your own home, start running as a hobby (the couch to 5k app is really good for this) or even just go for a walk in the evening. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and that works for you, this way it will be much easier to stick to.
A Healthy Balanced Diet
This doesn’t mean starting a new strict food plan, or tracking and counting your calories, as for some people that simply isn’t a healthy way to eat. Instead make it a goal of yours to nourish your body with lots of different nutrients, vitamins, healthy fats and proteins. Educate yourself on the benefits of eating certain foods, for example, it has been found that foods that contain folic acid and omega-3 can lower your stress levels and improve your overall mood. Find new recipes you are excited about trying and really enjoy the process of cooking a healthy balanced meal. Do not restrict your eating, listen to your body and nourish it with the food it needs.
Get Enough Sleep
In our modern lives, it can be very hard to get the required level of good quality sleep. We lead busy lives, have demanding jobs, childcare responsibilities, technology distracting us, a social life and more often than not we sacrifice sleep for our other commitments. The average person needs around 8 hours of sleep per night, this will improve our mood the following day, make us more alert and reduce our irritability.
We can achieve a healthier sleeping routine through a few ways, firstly, set yourself a time to go to sleep and one to wake up at each morning and stick to it, your body will get used to this routine and so the quality of your sleep will be much better. Try to avoid napping throughout that day, this will allow your body to become naturally tired by the evening and help you drift off easily. Try to avoid drinking caffeine such as tea and coffee in the evening, caffeine makes you more alert making it harder to sleep and lastly an obvious but often forgotten tip, put down your phone or any technology which involves you staring at a screen before bed, the light from the screen inhibits us feeling tired and affects the quality of our sleep. All of these changes will help you sleep better and for the right amount of time.
Practice Self Care
It is very easy to prioritise other people’s needs, and in the process neglect your own. This may be always doing things for other peoples benefit instead of your own, or doing things as you know it will please others even though you actually do not want to, such as attending an event that you actually don’t want to or helping someone with their tasks at the expense of you doing the things you need to do. While of course, it is good to help others, and look after those we care about, after a while it can take a toll on your own mental health. Make a promise to take some time for yourself and do things that will make you relaxed and happy. Everyone’s idea of ‘self-care’ is different, for some it may be a long bath and a face mask, for others it may be meditation or cooking and for someone else, it may be ticking off jobs on their to-do list.
Whatever it may be for you, set time aside in the week/day for yourself, this will improve your overall mood, give you something to look forward to and help you to recharge.
This is a good way to get all your thoughts down on paper, you could do this in the morning, evening or throughout the day when you feel like you need to. Sometimes when we have a lot going on our heads can feel ‘full’ leading to us becoming overwhelmed and stressed. Simply writing these thoughts down can reduce this, help us visually see everything we need to do as we have written it down, and help us rationalise and prioritise our tasks more efficiently. Furthermore, you could try gratitude journaling, writing down 3-5 things a day that you are grateful for no matter how small, this helps you to appreciate things you have in life and have a more positive outlook on your situation.
A Break From Social Media
It is well known that social media can affect our mental health. We compare ourselves to those we see online and may feel negative about ourselves if we do not receive ‘likes’ on a picture. It affects our quality of sleep and we can feel lonely after using it as our online relationships are not as fulfilling as ones in real life. We rely on our phones so much in modern day that we risk not being fully ‘present’ in the real world and everyone could benefit from a small break from social media. You could start with not using it in the evening, helping you sleep better and reducing stress before bed, or you could decide to stop using it when you’re out with friends or family, improving your relations and allowing you to enjoy their company. If you want to go further you could deactivate or delete your apps for a week or so, this way you will not have the temptation to keep checking them. While it may not be realistic to stop using social media completely, breaks from it are very beneficial for mental health and overall wellbeing.