New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on weight, general health and finances, but they can also extend to mental health. Experts give their mental health New Year’s resolutions suggestions for you to try this year and every year after.
Chip Coffey, the director of Outpatient Services at St. Luke’s Behavioral Health Center, sent nine positive mental health resolutions for the new year through email:
1. “I will treat myself with respect and speak nicely about myself. Try taping a list of 10 positive characteristics about yourself in various places throughout the house and workplace to remind you of these things.”
2. “I resolve to be mentally healthy. In the United States, there is still a stigma about seeing a therapist. However, it is truly one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves. A therapist gives us an unbiased ear and can also help us to understand why we do the things we do ... think of seeing a therapist as a mental health oil change.”
3. “I will be physically active on a daily basis.” Multiple studies show a link between exercise and improved mental health.
4. “I will act and not react. Many times we feel like everyone is pushing our buttons. When this happens, we are caught up in reaction. It is not that people are actually pushing buttons; it is that we became overly sensitive. If you know you’ll be around someone who says negative things, plan for this and have a list in your head of disarming statements.”
5. “I will learn to relax and enjoy. Many times we become so busy we forget how or even when to take care of ourselves. Take a yoga or meditation class. Find some activity like photography or journaling [that] is relaxing and enjoyable to you. Dedicate time to this daily, if possible, or at a minimum, weekly.”
6. “I will not define myself by a label. We often become our labels, e.g., I am depressed, I am fat, I am anxious. Drop your label; when you so it allows you to take control of the messages you have about yourself. For example, you could say, “I have depression, and today I will make sure to exercise to manage it.’”
7. “I will be mindful. Being mindful is about staying in the moment. I cannot change yesterday; I cannot predict tomorrow, however I do have control over the here and now. So, I will be aware in the moment, and enjoy that moment.”
8. “I will work towards being the person I want to be. There is an old quote about life being a journey to be enjoyed not an obstacle to be overcome. When we see our lives as obstacles we do not enjoy life much. When we see life as a journey and a time to continue to be the person we desire to be, life is much more pleasant and enjoyable.”
9. “I will not be hard on myself if I make resolutions and do not keep them. I may want to try them later in the year. I may realize that it will take more time than I thought to work on issues and I will look at this as a good things and not a bad thing. I do not fail by trying.”
Soroya Bacchus, a psychiatrist in Calif., suggests that women look at setting healthy boundaries as a New Year’s resolution.
“This can be something that women struggle with much more than men, whether it be with their sexual partners, officemates, or children,” Bacchus said. “Boundaries are important as they protect us from being manipulated, controlled, or abused. This enables women to make choices about what they think, feel, or how they behave.”
Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of “Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage,” said in an email that resolutions can center around removing toxic personal habits, like feeling lonely.
“Loneliness may not result from actually being alone, but more from feeling misunderstood or not valued,” Tessina said.
“People often isolate themselves because they feel inadequate in social situations. Value the friends you do have, and make new friends by attending classes or other group events where you can focus on a task or assignment. This will take the pressure off your contact with other people, and give you something in common with them.”
She said to also avoid spending too much time on the computer socializing because that doesn’t help loneliness as much.
“Make sure you schedule some time with a friend at least once a week, and if you don't have friends, then use that weekly time to take a class or join a group (for example, a book club or sports group ) which will give you a chance to make new friends,” Tessina said.
Coffey, Chip. Email interview. Dec. 27, 2011
Bacchus, Soroya. Email interview. Dec. 27, 2011
Tessina, Tina. Email interview. Dec. 27, 2011
Reviewed December 29, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith