New year, new you. That’s a common mantra many people adopt at the start of the new year. They hope by making resolutions, they can improve their physical and mental health, boost their careers, nurture their relationships, and make other positive changes in their lives.
Making resolutions is easy. Keeping them is hard. But, it is possible. Here are some ways you can make and keep resolutions to improve your mental health.
See a therapist, counselor, or life coach. Seeking assistance is often a good idea any time of year, but it may be especially helpful during the new year.
Some people make resolutions but their depression prevents them from fulfilling them. This isn’t unusual, because the new year can be a depressing time of the year. People may be disappointed that their holiday seasons didn’t unfold as they anticipated. They may be depressed because they think they didn’t accomplish all that they wanted to accomplish.
Therapists or life coaches can help you examine why you have certain expectations and why they affect you. They can help you handle your feelings produced by such expectations and work with you to tackle your resolutions and improve your life.
Spend time with friends. Outside assistance can also come in other forms.
If you talk about your resolutions with loved ones, you may feel more motivated to keep such resolutions, because your friends and relatives might hold you accountable. Discussing your resolutions can also boost your mental health because you’re spending time with others.
Studies have confirmed this. A review of several studies have found that poor social relationships negatively impact mental health, but we probably know that firsthand. We feel good by laughing with our friends and sharing things with them. These good feelings can continue as we think about times together and our friendships with people.
Set realistic, healthy goals as your resolutions. Goals are great motivators, but it’s easy to quit pursuing them if they’re not specific. Or, if they’re too ambitious, we may have trouble fulfilling them and abandon them. This could lead to depression and the belief that we’ve failed.
Two common resolutions are to exercise more and to drink less, but we may want to avoid resolving to run a marathon within a month or give up drinking immediately. This could be dangerous physically, because we could hurt ourselves by running too much. And, if we’ve been drinking heavily, if we stop drinking abruptly, we could experience severe symptoms such as anxiety, tremors, or even potentially fatal seizures.
Instead, you’ll probably want to take things gradually. If you’re a heavy drinker and want to give up alcohol, consider seeking outside help. Such assistance can help you wean from the substance more gradually and even prescribe medications to prevent side effects. If you want to exercise more, instead of training for a marathon, schedule exercise into your life two or three times a week and increase the frequency as your body adapts.
Become creative. Resolving to engage in creative pursuits can improve your mental health in a number of ways.
Consider making a list of your resolutions and writing about them regularly. Every week, you can write about any progress or setbacks you’ve encountered when trying to fulfill them. You can jot down strategies for accomplishing your resolutions.
Professionals use art, music, or writing therapy to encourage people to create paintings, compose music, or write in journals to express how they feel. For example, people could write about painful feelings or reasons why they feel proud or grateful. Such activities can be cathartic, helping people address their emotions.
Writing can be an effective therapeutic tool because it’s “accessible, affordable, portable, and creates self-awareness and self-understanding,” says Sierra Delarosa. Writing also creates a product that can give people a sense of accomplishment, of something they’ve completed and created. Resolutions can be hazy, but writing is something more tangible.
Resolutions are supposed to improve our lives, but they may contribute to anxiety and depression. Luckily, we can take some steps to make resolutions drive us forward instead of holding us back.