The countdown has officially begun. Have your party poppers at the ready because the new year is almost here. While you may be busy making your list of 2020 resolutions, why not spare a thought for the habits that will truly impact your mental wellness?
To get you started, we spoke to licenced clinical psychologist, Sharone Weltfreid, Ph.D. and therapist, Christopher Ryan Jones, Psy.D. Let’s take a look at their advice on the mentally healthy habits you should start when January comes around.
1. Take a break from social media
You wake up, turn over to grab your phone and instantly check Instagram or Facebook. For the first few minutes of your day, you scroll through the posts aimlessly, barely taking them in. If that scenario sounds familiar, it’s time for a change.
“Taking a break from social media can have a number of benefits. For one, it can lead to greater self-awareness and more conscious choices,” says Dr. Weltfreid.
“Without the distraction of social media, you can attend to your feelings and discover ways to cope. You may also recognize other automatic habits and be willing to put in the effort to more consciously live your life.” Why not resolve to ‘switch off’ this new year?
2. Start a gratitude journal
“Journaling is a valuable tool and I find myself recommending it to people all the time. A gratitude journal is especially useful in helping us remember the positive things in life. This is very important because it is sometimes easier to focus on the negative,” says Dr. Jones.
“Try to be specific about that which you are grateful for to bring it to life more,” says Dr. Weltfreid. “For example, instead of, ‘I am grateful for my cat’, you can write something like, ‘I am grateful that my cat sat on my lap when I was feeling upset about work today.’”
If you’re ready to start journaling, there are a couple of ways to go. Of course, you can buy a notebook and use it to write down your thoughts each day. However, if you’re looking for a digital journal, you may also want to try the Reflectly or Moodnotes app.
3. Become more active each day
“Exercise stimulates the body to release endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones, and thus is a great way to boost your mood and reduce your anxiety,” says Dr. Weltfreid.
“Physical activity is important for a person’s overall mental health,” says Dr. Jones. “By taking 30 minutes a day to go on a nice walk or to go for a swim allows you to reconnect with yourself both physically and mentally.”
The new year is the perfect time to get more active. There are plenty of ways to options from joining a gym to taking up a sport. Decide what fits your lifestyle and schedule.
4. Stop comparing yourself to others
Are you guilty of comparing yourself to others? If so, you could be playing a dangerous game when it comes to your mental well-being. “Social comparison can impact our self-concept and how we feel about our lives. When we evaluate another person, it is natural to compare that person to ourselves,” says Dr. Weltfreid.
“If the other person appears to have more than us, we may feel inferior and envious. If on the other hand we appear to have more, we may experience a boost in self-esteem. Either way, we make our sense of self and our lot in life contingent on how we compare to others.”
5. Focus on the positives
Rather than drawing comparisons between yourself and those around you, take a step back. It’s important to realise that you already have so much to be thankful for. Identifying the positive things in your life will help you to have a sunnier all-around outlook.
“Focus on the good in your life,” suggests Dr. Weltfreid. “Recognise that happiness or self-worth is not contingent upon attaining superiority over others or attaining that which is possessed by another, but rather finding joy in what one already possesses and discovering meaning in life.”
6. Train your brain
Got some down time? Rather than binge-watching the latest Netflix series, why not spend some time learning a new skill. For example, you could learn to play an instrument, pick up a new language or simply play a brain-training app on your phone.
“There have been a number of research studies on the importance of language learning and how it helps against diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” explains Dr. Jones. “However, language learning is simply a great skill that can add to your quality of life…and maybe encourage you to take that trip to France you keep putting off.”
7. Make ‘you time’ every week
It doesn’t matter how busy your daily life is, you should always prioritise your needs and schedule some ‘you time’. If you’ve been neglecting yourself, it’s time to figure out what activities help you to relax and focus your time and energy on them.
“We can use ‘me time’ to take a step back to check in with ourselves and develop clarity about what’s needed for us to be healthy and happy. We can then commit to consciously living in ways that are best for us,” says Dr. Weltfreid. “Other ‘me time’ activities include journaling to better understand ourselves and make sense of our experiences, meditation to center ourselves, and reading self-help books to enter a positive mindset.”
Change Your Habits Now!
Ready to get started? With 2020 almost upon us, it’s time to take some positive steps to improve your mental well-being. Make a list of the habits you’ll take into the new year.