7 tips for making New Year’s resolutions that are good for your mental health
A life coach shares professional advice on how to take care of your emotional, physical and social well-being in 2020
As a new year looms, many people see it as an opportunity to better themselves and start working on new projects and goals by making New Year’s resolutions. Often, these revolve around things like getting fit, getting better grades or spending less money.
But resolving to take care of our mental health often takes a back seat, despite the fact that it affects our emotional, physical and social well-being. With the help of Hong Kong-based certified NLP Life Coach Steffi Lopez Gonzalez, we’ve assembled a list of New Year’s resolutions you can make for your mental health in the new year.
Take one day a week off social media
“Social media has addictive qualities,” says Lopez Gonzalez. “It’s easy to become obsessed with the rewards of ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’ and get caught up in chasing the approval of others instead of being involved and interested in your own life and the lives of those around you.”
Not only can mindless scrolling take up a lot of your free time, but looking through your social media feed can make you feel depressed and anxious, as you tend to compare your life to others. It can be hard to remember that people are only posting their highlights and the good things happening to them, and are likely to be dealing with similar stress and insecurities as yourself.
“Enjoy the moment!” says Lopez Gonzalez. By being in the moment, we experience less anxiety and stress.
“Living your life through the lens of social media – posting, updating, and tweeting about everything you do while it’s happening instead of directly interacting with it – takes you out of the now, and lessens your ability to truly enjoy each experience.”
Taking a one day a week off Instagram, TikTok and Facebook can help you focus on yourself and what you want to do, rather than on what other people are doing. Remember to turn off your notifications too!
Exercise – but throw away the scales
One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to exercise and get trim, but working out has many benefits that have nothing to do with weight loss.
“Exercise has an incredible impact on your mental and emotional well-being,” says Lopez Gonzalez. “It boosts your mood and combats depression. When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, which all work together to positively affect your mood and improve anxiety levels.”
She adds that regular exercise can decrease the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream, helping to reduce symptoms of stress.
Britain’s National Health Service even encourages exercise as a form of therapy, because it can raise your self-esteem and cause chemical changes in your brain that help positively change your mood.
Get a planner – and use it
Nothing is more stressful than realising you forgot to do an assignment or missed an appointment. Many of us buy a planner at the beginning of the year, use it for a couple of weeks, and then shove it in the back of a drawer sometime around mid-February. Keeping your schedule straight makes it less likely that a deadline will sneak up on you or throw you off guard, and writing things down can make you feel less anxious.
The Bullet Journal method is especially popular these days, because it acts as a combination of a planner and diary. There are many groups on Facebook and accounts on Instagram that show you the most effective, and creative, ways to organise your journal. Some people decorate their journals with doodles, colourful tape and stickers, while others keep it simple. There’s no right or wrong way to do it!
Journal at least one day a week
Journaling can help you to declutter your mind by organising thoughts and emotions into more coherent pieces of information that are easier for your brain to process.
“This, in turn, helps you free up some mental space and think more clearly,” says Lopez Gonzalez. “When you jot down you emotions and experiences regularly, you can recognise what you’re doing right and work on areas that need improvement.
“Consequently, it will help you accomplish your personal goals and eventually become a better version of yourself.”
Schedule “me time” every day
“Me time is not selfish, it’s about self-care,” says Lopez Gonzalez. “Taking some ‘me time’ can help you avoid irritability and enable you to control your emotions.Not giving enough time to yourself can cause you to build up resentment that can harm both you and your relationships [with other people].
“In our society, it looks like we always need to be working and putting our energy into something, otherwise we are wasting our time and not accomplishing anything. However, ‘me time’ is crucial for our health.”
Me time can be something as simple as reading a book, or watching the sun rise with a hot cup of coffee or tea, or engaging in a hobby you love. Lopez Gonzalez recommends at least 30 minutes of me time a day.
Marie Kondo was onto something with her approach to tidying your home. We should “create space physically at home, as it helps to create mental and emotional space and clarity,” says Lopez Gonzalez.
For many, getting rid of old clothes and furniture can be like getting rid of emotional baggage. Because we grow and change over time, getting rid of our old belongings can make space for new ones.
“By decluttering, our mental capacity broadens,” Lopez Gonzalez says.
“We free our minds and give ourselves room to make different choices, change habits and make decisions that are more suitable for us today.”
Start the day with a positive affirmation
A positive affirmation can be as simple as telling yourself “today will be a good day”.
“Write it down and make it your ‘mantra’,” says Lopez Gonzalez. “If you start worrying or catch yourself starting with internal negative self-talk, use the positive affirmation to anchor you and quiet your inner critic.
“A positive affirmation can help us be more mindful and aware of our inner state and the type of attitudes and thoughts we have,” she says.
“It is extremely useful [for practising] mindfulness and taking better care of our inner well-being, which is ultimately the filter on how we experience reality and our level of happiness and fulfilment.”