Another New Year is upon us and you might be one of the many who uses the 1st of January as a chance for a fresh start with a list of New Year’s resolutions.
There’s nothing wrong with setting goals to get more exercise, or give up chocolate for example, but this year why not make a commitment to focus on your mental health?
Although Australia doesn’t have the cold and wet January weather that Europe and the US have to deal with, January is still considered a depressing month. With the excitement of Christmas and New Year over, and the dread of going back to work, it’s not surprising that many of us start the year with a low mood.
Almost one in five Australians will have experienced some form of mental illness in the past year. The state of your mental health can impact on every area of your life, including your physical health, work life, finances, and relationships, so it’s important to make mental wellness a priority.
If you’d like 2018 to be the year you finally tackle feelings of anxiety and depression, learn to cope with stress, or simply feel happier and more fulfilled, now is a great time to take a few simple steps that can help to improve your mental health.
Start a Gratitude Journal
New Year’s is the time for many to stock up on new planners and fresh stationery. This year, make sure you add a gratitude journal to your list. Starting a daily habit of writing down things you are grateful for combines two practices that are known to improve your mental wellbeing – gratitude, and journaling.
Reminding yourself of everything you have to be thankful for can improve physical health, relationships, and even sleep. Daily journaling also helps to clear the mind, clarify your thoughts and feelings, and track your growth and improvement over time.
You don’t need anything fancy to start a gratitude journal – a simple notebook is fine. Just be sure to make it part of your morning or evening routine to write a list of things you are grateful for that day.
Declutter Your Life
Decluttering and cleaning your home of excess junk can not only make it a more pleasant place to be, but it can also do wonders for your mental health. It’s easy to become weighed down by too much “stuff.” Having a good clear out can really help you to feel more mentally free.
Completing tasks such as decluttering a room will also give you a great sense of accomplishment, boosting your self-esteem and making you feel more productive.
Don’t leave your big house clean until spring – New Year is the perfect time to have a good clear out and start the year with an uncluttered home and mind.
Focus on Sleep
Improving your mental health could be as simple as going to bed an hour or two earlier every night. Studies have shown that lack of sleep is a huge problem for Australians as it affects both physical health and mental performance.
Poor quality sleep and depression have a strong link and people who don’t get enough sleep or sleep badly may be more likely to develop mental illnesses.
If you think you’re one of the many people who isn’t getting enough sleep, make an effort to increase the length of time you sleep and improve your sleep quality. Going to bed earlier is a great start (try setting a bedtime alarm to remind you) but it’s also helpful to start winding down in the evenings well before bedtime with a relaxing evening routine.
Smartphones and other electronic devices can also have a negative impact on sleep quality – ban them from the bedroom and make it one of your resolutions to stop using your phone at least an hour before bedtime.
Start a Meditation and Mindfulness Habit
Meditation is another easy way to improve your mental health, which even the busiest people can fit into their lives – even five minutes of meditation a day can make a big difference.
Mindfulness meditation (a type of meditation where you focus on the current moment instead of dwelling on the past or stressing about the future) has been shown to be helpful for those dealing with anxiety, depression, and stress.
Meditation is no longer considered a hippie, new age practice and there’s no requirement to sit cross-legged chanting mantras. There are some great tips here for getting started with mindfulness meditation.
If you thought focusing on your mental health this year would give you an excuse to let your physical health fall by the wayside, think again!
Your mind and body should not be considered separate entities. Rather, you need to take a holistic approach to be happier and healthier (both mentally and physically) in 2018.
Exercise causes the body to release feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream, which provide an instant mood boost. Something as simple as a ten-minute walk can help to get those endorphins flowing. If you can exercise outdoors, you’ll get an extra mental health benefit from spending time in nature.
Commit to a Happier and Healthier You in 2018
Most people give up on their New Year’s resolutions because they’re unachievable. Rather than writing a long list of unrealistic goals this year, commit to focus on a few simple habits that will help to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
With a fresh new year of opportunities waiting, take a little time this January to invest in yourself and make 2018 your best year ever!