So often, the focus this time of year is on setting new goals for one’s physical health, but often overlooked, is one’s mental health. Sometimes, however, setting some simple mental health goals can make a world of difference in one’s emotional and mental stability throughout the year.
- Exercise. Exercise releases endorphins that actually make you feel better. Research suggests that regular exercise can be as effective in treating mild to moderate depression, as medication. One key to success in this area is to choose options that have as few barriers to success as possible. For instance, rather than joining a gym and feeling like you have to drive to the gym in order to get exercise, consider just aiming to go for more walks, bike rides or the like in your own neighborhood. Choose a time that is easy. For many, this would be first thing in the morning before the day gets going, but for others, lunch break is a better option or even on the way home from work. Set realistic goals and come up with a realistic plan for success.
- Volunteer or serve others. When people are connected in a relationship, especially one where you don’t just take, but you give, it is healthy and rewarding. Volunteering or serving others provides an opportunity to take the focus off one’s self and to focus on the needs of others. While this in no way is meant to minimize the difficulty of one’s personal circumstances, the perspective shift can be healthy. And, although volunteering at a formal setting, like a soup kitchen or nursing home is great, even something as simple as bringing a meal to someone who is sick, sending a message encouraging someone who is going through a difficult time, or helping a stranger load their groceries in the parking lot are all efforts that can leave you feeling good about helping others.
- Sleep. Consistent sleeping patterns that allow for 7-8 hours of sleep each night are a great foundation for mental health. Regular sleep reduces anxiety and allows for clear thinking.
- Journal. Writing down thoughts, feelings, worries, dreams, as well as any other thoughts floating around in one’s mind, helps free the mind of needing to “remember” these items and ruminate on them. Instead, once the items are written down, your mind can rest knowing these items are “filed” in a safe place.
- Practice gratitude. An attitude of gratitude positively impacts one’s mental health. Take time regularly to acknowledge and/or express your gratitude for aspects of your life. It can be as simple as being thankful for a warm bed to sleep in, food to eat, a vehicle to drive, the ability to work, etc. Take time to acknowledge the good in your life.