When we start the New Year, there’s always the pressure to exercise more, eat healthier, and take better care of our bodies. But what if, this year, we focus specifically on our mental health? 1 in 4 people have a mental illness, and some studies suggest that half the population is suffering. January is Mental Wellness Month. What better time to set a New Year’s goal to focus on your emotional health? Instead of focusing on a particular physical resolution, why not focus on mental wellness? Promise to make 2024 the year you make mental health a priority.
Spending time focusing on your mental health takes time and effort. But the investment is worth it. We focus on others more than we focus on ourselves. If we put the same amount of time and resources on ourselves as on others, we’d be in a better place. It’s okay to still give of ourselves, but not to the detriment of our health. It’s not selfish to put yourself first.
Remember, there’s no health without mental health.
Here are five activities you can do to focus on mental wellness.
1. EAT BENEFICIAL FOODS
You are what you eat. Enjoy a diet high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats like olive oil.
The foods we consume affect our mental health. Boost your intake of these vitamin-enriched foods: apricots, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, collards, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato, blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes.
2. PRACTICE SELF-CARE
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. It’s also a mindset. It’s a way of taking care of our mental and emotional needs on a deeper level. It means listening to yourself, showing up for yourself, and putting yourself first. It’s not an easy fix. It’s making a life that you don’t have to escape from.
3. LEARN TO SAY “NO”
No isn’t a bad word. It’s a great word — we’re just afraid to use it. This year don’t automatically say “yes” because you think you should or “it’s the right thing” to say. Please remember, “No.” is a complete sentence. No explanation is needed. This is the year you’re focusing on YOU.
Review your calendar, and eliminate any meeting, dinner, event, or obligation you think “you should” attend. In other words, if you’re spending time on something, it shouldn’t be because of the pressure you’re putting on your life. If it doesn’t make you happy, skip it. If you want to spend a day at home relaxing, do it!
4. MAKE SOCIAL CONNECTION A PRIORITY
Prioritize time to connect with others. We are social beings — we need each other.
Even those of us who enjoy time alone need someone in our lives. Make a habit of spending face–to–face time with others each week. Even better, volunteer at an organization whose mission speaks to you. There are thousands of worthy organizations always looking for dedicated individuals. Connecting with others is essential for our mental health.
If you struggle or have struggled with anxiety or depression, it’s harder to convince yourself that getting dressed and leaving the house is good for you. If you suffer from self-esteem issues, please remember you have something to offer. As adults, it’s harder to make friends, and it won’t work out every time, but a true friend is better than gold. Make a goal to visit with one friend at least twice a month. I promise you’ll feel better spending time with others.
5. FOCUS ON WHAT BRINGS YOU JOY
Find your purpose in life. Practice gratitude. Find your passion. Take up a new hobby or rediscover an old one. Joy can be as simple as enjoying a second cup of coffee, diving into a book, or listening to someone laugh. Find the big and small things that make your heart skip a beat. Find what’s important to you.
It’s okay to be down sometimes. It’s okay to feel melancholy during special occasions, but if these suggestions aren’t beneficial and you feel like you’re struggling, please know it is OK to reach out for help. If you consistently struggle with feelings of sadness, anxiousness, hopelessness, or pessimism, it may be time to talk with a professional.
Mental illness is treatable. If you’re feeling suicidal, please call 988, 24-hour, seven days a week crisis line for help.