Prioritizing mental health may be a New Year’s resolution for many people—especially if this past year has been emotionally challenging or if you struggle with depression or anxiety. How do you prioritize your mental health, though? The following ideas may provide some help and inspiration.
A Fresh Start: Making Mental Health a Priority in the New Year
If you’re a traditionalist, you’re familiar with making resolutions for the coming year. It’s always good to have a fresh start. Even those new to resolution list-making can use a few pointers. When you’re making lists of resolutions this New Year, try something different. Instead of focusing solely on things to acquire, work goals to achieve, or other lofty yet worthwhile goals, it might be wise to consider how to prioritize mental health.
Individuals are good at jotting down how much money they want to save, what job they hope to get, and how many new friends or likes they’ll achieve on social media. But figuring out a strategy and ways to prioritize your mental health rarely makes the list.
Shouldn’t it, though? After all, what’s more important than good mental health? It’s equally important to good physical health. The two go hand in hand regarding overall health and well-being.
And it’s not that hard to do. Among life’s challenges, devising ways to prioritize mental health is one of the more manageable goals. But how do you start figuring out how to prioritize mental health?
Setting Healthy Intentions and Goals for Mental Wellbeing
Begin at the beginning. Every goal that’s worthy of effort requires good intentions. Mental wellbeing is even more dependent on setting healthy intentions to achieve goals for better mental health this coming year.
Practical Strategies for Maintaining Positive Mental Health Habits
If you are looking for ways to prioritize your mental health that are practical and easy to do, here are some suggestions.
Care for Yourself and Others
Good mental health is something that can be cultivated through helpful habits. One of these involves taking good care of yourself physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Learn to recognize signs of stress and anxiety so you can initiate coping measures to counteract or prevent their harmful effects on your body and mind.
Being caring and generous of your time and energy with others is also helpful. This includes loved ones and family members but extends to friends, neighbors, co-workers, and others.
Know When Enough is Enough and Be Willing to Ask for Help
When tension, stress, everyday anxiety, workload, personal responsibilities, and frustrations mount, it’s essential to call a halt. Know when you’re at that point that you must directly deal with the issue of overload—before a potentially critical point of no return. This is when it’s okay and recommended to ask for help. Be willing to ask for it and return the favor when others ask you for help.
Recognize and Affirm Your Value
Every individual has value. Not everyone recognizes their self-worth, to their detriment. Self-acceptance means understanding that all human beings, yourself included, have flaws. We’re not perfect. Yet, we do have talents and skills to offer. This helps make us unique and special.
Embrace your uniqueness and remind yourself of your value. This will boost your self-confidence and motivate you to try new things.
Exercise and the Mind-Body Connection
Did you know that regular physical exercise in older adults can slow brain aging by about a decade? Researchers found that result in a 2016 study published in Neurology, the online journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Add regular exercise to the daily routine—even if that’s a quick walk outside at lunch or during a break from work. Both mind and body will reap the benefits.
Make Good Sleep a Priority for Better Mental Health
Humans require sufficient, high-quality sleep to maintain a healthy status. Adults who get the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep daily can better prevent or limit their risk of severe illnesses and conditions. Yet good sleep does even more for your health. Scientific evidence proves that regular, high-quality sleep improves a person’s mood and brain performance.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleeping allows the brain to repair itself, removing toxins. Restful sleep also prepares the brain for creating, learning, and remembering tasks. Those who don’t get sufficient sleep disrupt the brain’s vital repair process. NIH sleep expert Dr. Marishka Brown puts it succinctly, “Sleep is not a throwaway thing—it’s a biological necessity.”
Adopt and Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
Everything you eat and drink contributes to or detracts from mental wellbeing. While overindulging or splurging during the recent holiday season may have packed on a few pounds, with discipline and determination, you can reinstate healthy eating habits this month and in the coming months.
Remember that healthy eating can be fun. Just because food is healthy doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. Find recipes incorporating the ingredients, flavors, colors, and aromas you like. If some aren’t healthy, find healthier alternatives. If you don’t cook or don’t feel you’re proficient, start with simple meals. Get take-out from restaurants specializing in organic, all-natural, locally sourced foods that are minimally processed and made to order.
Enjoy meals with loved ones, family members, or friends to make healthy eating choices a regular habit.
Creating a Supportive Environment for Mental Wellness in the New Year
Of course, to maintain mental health and wellness in the New Year, creating a healthy and supportive environment is essential. Research shows that the more prolonged exposure to specific settings, such as a pleasant home environment, the greater the potential for a positive impact on your mental health and wellness.
- Start at home. Prioritizing mental health begins within the home since creating and maintaining a calm physical space helps nurture mental well-being.
- Create a clean, organized space, eliminating clutter.
- Ensure there’s lots of natural light.
- Use colors that bring you joy.
- Do your best to minimize unwanted, excessive, harsh, and repetitive noise. A peaceful environment is more conducive to mental wellness.
- Arrange a sleep-enticing area to maximize the benefits of nightly sleep. This means keeping the temperature right — not too hot or cold, ensuring that the blue light from electronic devices is not intrusive, and using comfortable bedding, pillows, and comforters.
You’ll feel calmer and more relaxed in pleasant surroundings.
- Make it a point to be in nature. Getting outside to breathe fresh air and enjoy some Vitamin D from the sunshine will do wonders to lift your spirits.
- Walk in a nearby park or around the neighborhood. It doesn’t need to be a lengthy walk to provide benefits. The endorphins released by this physical exercise lower stress and elevate mood.
- Regular physical exercise several times a week can provide lasting mental health benefits. Exercise activities are other ways to prioritize your mental health in the New Year.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Besides creating a calm and inviting home and exercising outside, pay attention to who you spend time with. Ways to prioritize mental health include being with people who are uplifting, supportive, and loyal.
- Friends, family members, co-workers, neighbors, and casual acquaintances play a role in your mental health.
- If you are with positive, supportive people, you’ll benefit from the social connection and sense of belonging. On the other hand, spending time with negative, critical, angry individuals will make you anxious and stressed.
- Spend more time with positive people and less with others who bring you down. This is about ways to prioritize your mental health.
What If You Need More Help?
Suppose you have a history of depression or anxiety or have been recently diagnosed. You may have wrestled with dark thoughts following the death of a loved one or after experiencing trauma, a difficult marriage, trouble within the family, illness, job loss, or career change.
While you want to do what’s best for your mental health, it isn’t always easy to figure out what to do. Now may be the time to consider seeking professional help. Remember that learning how to prioritize mental health is an essential part of treatment to overcome many mental health disorders. It’s also helpful during incredibly challenging times.
Our experts at Restore-Mental Health are always available to answer any questions you may have about treatment for many mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. Contact us for a confidential discussion about our programs and how we may be able to assist you.