Think of your mental health as a muscle you have to strengthen.
After a year like 2020, it might be beneficial to re-evaluate your mental health habits for the new year. If you felt higher levels of stress in the last year, you’re definitely not alone. One way to help yourself build new stress-reducing habits is by trying these New Year’s resolutions for mental health.
Many people take a reactive approach to their mental health and seek help only when they’re struggling. However, your mental health is something you can strengthen, nurture, and cultivate—even when things are going well. Practicing good mental health habits can help ease stress and in some cases prevent mental illnesses from developing.
Resolutions for Mental Health
For a proactive approach to mental health, try to make the following healthy habits part of your routine in the new year:
1. Find or commit to a hobby
All those people baking bread during the early months of lockdown were onto something. Enjoyable activities offer a break from daily life. Plus, they can provide you with feelings for pride or fulfillment.
You probably have some hobbies you enjoy, but maybe you have trouble motivating yourself to do them. If that’s the case, try setting goals for how often you’ll do the hobby. For example, you could challenge yourself to paint twice a week, or read for 20 minutes a day.
2. Set a sleep schedule
It might not sound like a resolution for mental health, but think of how volatile your mood is after a bad night of sleep. Not only should you try to get “enough” sleep, but you should practice maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Brains love routine, especially when it comes to sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at similar times every day (even on weekends).
3. Get involved
Try volunteering for an organization that supports your values. For example, if you love animals, volunteer with a shelter. If you enjoy cooking and caring for others, volunteer with a soup kitchen or similar food program. A 2018 study from BMC Public Health found that adults who volunteered reported improved mental health, physical health, life satisfaction, and social well-being.
It doesn’t have to be volunteering: Find a club. At the moment, you may only be able to participate virtually. However, getting involved in communities can help you find a sense of belonging and purpose.
4. Take a daily walk
It’s a cruel cycle: Depression can make you feel lethargic, which makes you not want to exercise, and inactivity can in turn worsen depression.
You probably have heard that aerobic exercise can help improve mood and overall health. However, if you are feeling too lethargic for vigorous exercise, challenge yourself with brisk, daily walk. Even 20 minutes of walking may help make a difference in your mental (and physical) health. Learn more about the health benefits of walking here.
5. Eat five servings of fruits + veggies a day
Healthy eating supports every aspect of health—including your mental health. However, a resolution of “eat better” is vague and can be difficult to stick to. Try something simple and concrete: Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This straightforward goal may not cover all aspects of a healthy diet, but it is an important step to getting the nutrients you need.
6. Keep a gratitude jar or journal
It’s easy to ignore the good things happening around you. For some, it can be helpful to practice gratitude or positive thinking. To do this, add a daily entry about something you’re grateful for or happy about that day. If you’re using the jar method, write it on a slip of paper and place it in the jar.
At the end of the year, you can go through the jar (or journal) to remind yourself of all the good things that happened throughout the year.
7. Most importantly, talk to a mental health professional
If you struggle with stress, burnout, interpersonal conflicts, anxiety, or depression, you may benefit from therapy. You don’t need to have a mental illness to see a therapist, and in fact, proactive therapy may help prevent a mental illness. Therapy is a great way to express yourself, feel heard, and get help.
Want more ideas for resolutions for mental health?
- 5 ways to help yourself through depression. Jacksonville, FL: Nemours Foundation. (Accessed on December 14, 2020)
- Body image and self-esteem. Jacksonville, FL: Nemours Foundation. (Accessed on December 14, 2020)
- Top 5 strategies to cultivating your mental health. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (Accessed on December 14, 2020)
- Yeung JWK, Zhang Z, Kim TY. Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health. 2018;18:8.