Setting Mental Health Goals for the New Year

Posted: January 11, 2020
Setting Mental Health Goals for the New Year

A new year has just begun and for many of us that means time for change. While most people make resolutions to improve their physical health or finances, this year you may also want to create goals that focus on your mental health. Remember, being the healthiest version of you means taking care of your body and mind which will, in turn, promote mental wellness and happiness.

You can make your well-being a top priority with these mental health tips:

Take care of your entire body (including your mind).

How you treat your body has a tremendous effect on your mental health, so make sure you’re taking care of it. Eat nutritious meals, drink lots of water, try and get enough sleep, and incorporate exercise into your daily routine.

Do not ignore your thoughts and feelings.

Pretending that something isn’t happening won’t make it go away. So, if you are feeling sad, anxious, angry, or depressed, try getting to the cause of your feelings rather than ignoring them. Ask yourself, “What is making me upset? Can I do something about it? Is there someone who can help?” Even if you have no control over the situation, you have control over how you deal with it. Bottling up your emotions will only make everything worse.

Learn to say both Yes and No.

Allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone, start saying yes more often to things that interest you and that you want to try and discover a whole new side to yourself. Saying “yes” more is not about agreeing to things you don’t want to do, but about not letting fear stop you from trying things you have always wanted to do.

On the flip side, knowing when to say “no” is just as important as saying “yes.” If you are accustomed to saying "yes" all the time, you know how quickly things can spiral out of control. Saying "yes" when you want to say "no" can be exhausting. Out of fear of letting others down, you end up overextending yourself, which can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. It is important to remember that it is ok to say "no" to things that you can’t or don’t want to do. 

Set Boundaries and use them.

Boundaries are crucial to your mental well-being, but establishing them is not always easy to do, especially if you have difficulty saying no to others. Setting boundaries helps you to set the tone for how you treat yourself and how you allow people to treat you. It helps you to be assertive and confidently state what you need. You might be in fewer situations that force you to experience resentment and anger, and boundaries promote peace and safety.

Practice forgiveness.

Being chronically angry impacts your blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Forgiveness does not mean you must speak to the person if the relationship is not worth rebuilding. Forgiveness simply means acceptance. You know you’ve forgiven someone if you are no longer walking around angry, losing sleep and wishing something bad will happen to that person.

Commit to therapy if you need it.

Therapy is not only for people who live with a mental illness. A psychiatrist or a therapist is an objective, non-biased person, unlike a friend or family member who is emotionally extremely invested in you. This does not mean that a psychiatrist or therapist does not care about you, but the investment is different. He or she is equipped with skills and knowledge to help you maneuver through everyday challenges. Therapy provides you with a confidential and safe space to work through your past, relationships, set boundaries, notice patterns and develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress. Your doctor or therapist holds you accountable and allows you to have a constant reality check.

Ask for help.

If you broke your leg, no one would tell you that you don’t need to get help or to just get over it, so why do people say that to someone struggling with mental health challenges? One in five Americans lives with a mental illness, yet the topic of mental health is often swept under the rug. The stigma it carries can often make individuals afraid to ask for help when they need it most. You are not alone and you have nothing to be ashamed of.

In this New Year try and surround yourself with those who support you and remember that your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

- Written by Jeffrey Borenstein, M.D., President & CEO of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. This blog post also appears on the Gravity Blankets Blog.

For more Everyday Mental Health Tips, click here.

Check out this presentation by Dr. Stephen P. Hinshaw, Ph.D., 2019 BBRF Ruane Prize for Outstanding Achievement in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Research as he discusses some cutting-edge ideas for combatting the stigma surrounding mental illness: