Every year, people make New Year’s resolutions, most of which don’t tend to last longer than a couple of months. Some vow to join the gym and go at least twice a week. Others promise to spend less time online. Some say they’re going to save £50 a week.
Of course, while many people are able to do these things, for lots of us these can feel like unachievable goals. They sound good when we make them, but they’re hard to keep up with – and when we ‘fail’ at them, we feel guilty and bad about ourselves, and promise to start all over again next year.
So why not make resolutions that focus on your mental wellbeing instead? We’ve come up with 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2021 that are easy to stick to and important when it comes to improving your mental health.
1. Limit your time on social media
It should come as no surprise that we have been spending a lot more time on social media this past year than ever before. Research has shown that social media can negatively impact our mental health, so it might be worth limiting time on apps or even cutting them out of your life completely in 2021.
Social media can heighten anxiety by increasing your ability to keep up to date with the activities of other people, which may cause you to develop Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). This in turn can make you obsess about what other people are doing – or even make yourself feel bad because you’re not doing that specific thing.
Apps like Instagram only paint a small picture of someone’s life, many of whom only post the good things and never the bad, but try not to compare your life with others online. It might be healthier to take a step back from this false sense of reality next year.
2. Go to bed earlier
Getting an earlier night will help you feel rested the following day – which is more beneficial to your mental health, as a lack of sleep can heighten anxiety and irritability.
Try turning off your phone an hour before bedtime and not watching anything on Netflix. Instead, use this hour to relax in your bed without any distractions.
Other ways to help you fall asleep include exercising, avoiding tea and coffee and not drinking alcohol before bed, as well as only using your bed for sleep – so that you associate it with this.
Establish a regular, relaxing bedtime routine that lets you unwind and sends a signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep.
3. Cut down on drinking
Many people drink more during the holiday season. These substances can be harmful to both your physical and mental health; alcohol is a depressant which can negatively affect your mood, and according to Drink Aware, can increase anxiety and stress.
Giving up or cutting down on alcohol for your New Year’s resolution could help you sleep better, improve your mood and save you money. What’s not to love? You could challenge yourself to complete Dry January – where you cut out alcohol for an entire month.
4. Exercise more
Exercise boosts ‘happy hormones’ in the brain known as endorphins, which will improve your mood and sense of wellbeing. Making small, positive changes can help.
Why not try something soothing like going on a walk or a run in the morning? Engaging in some form of exercise every day, even if it is just going for a short walk outside, is likely to make you feel better both physically and mentally.
5. Practise self-care
Self-care comes in many forms. For some, it’s a nice long bubble bath with a lit candle and relaxing music. For others, it’s a face mask, chocolate and their favourite comedy movie.
But self-care isn’t just about pampering. It can also be reading a book, meditating, going for a run or even just saying no to things that you don’t want to do.
Whatever self-care means to you, know that it is not selfish. It’s important to look after your mental wellbeing in the best way you know how, so make time for yourself as your New Year’s Resolution.
6. Be more trusting
People who suffer from loneliness or mental health problems such as depression and anxiety can often isolate themselves from friends and family, according to research by the Mental Health Foundation. If you’re having a bad time, seek support.
Try to be more trusting and know that there are people who love you and will be there for you. A virtual coffee with a friend can do wonders for your mental health, and can make you feel less alone. You may even discover that things aren’t as bad as they seem, and even if they are, at least you have someone to talk to about it, who will hopefully understand and try to help.
7. Improve your diet
Try to make an effort to eat better. We’re not talking about counting calories, but rather getting more nutrients such as vitamins, healthy fats, magnesium – all things that our bodies need and may have a positive effect on your mental wellbeing.
Research has shown that foods which are rich in folic acid like avocado and spinach and omega-3 acids such as salmon and tuna, can lower stress, according to the Priory Group.
This doesn’t mean that you have to restrict yourself – just make a conscious effort to eat a healthy balanced diet every day.
8. Keep a diary
Keeping a diary can help reduce anxiety, according to Psychology Today. Whether it’s jotting down your thoughts and feelings to get them out of your head or to track your mood daily, this can provide an outlet to clear your head.
Even if you write everything down and then throw the paper away, it may still help you make sense of things that have been troubling you.
9. Be more selfish
This isn’t to say that you should make everything about yourself, but this year, be more selfish by saying no to things you don’t want to do. If you don’t want to out, and would rather stay home in your pyjamas in front of the telly, do that.
Tell your friends and family when they have upset you, tell people when they are being hurtful. Be honest with people about what your feelings and try not to feel guilty about the fact you might be letting others down.
10. Seek help
If you’re struggling with your mental health, ask for help. See your GP if you are having a hard time, and if you believe there is something more going on below the surface, ask to be referred to a mental health professional.
Don’t feel embarrassed about asking for help. Mental illness can be lonely and overwhelming and it can be hard to cope with it on your own.
If you find yourself struggling and your local GP surgery isn’t open, you can call 111 for advice or go down to A&E, who may be able to refer you to an on-duty psychiatrist to help you then and there.
If you are having a hard time and need to talk, reach out to someone you trust or alternatively, call the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123.
And if your employer has purchased OptiMe for your organisation you also have access to 24/7 counselling support for free.
Please contact [email protected] for further information.
To read our blog on maintaining positive mental health during COVID-19 click here