- Mental health is declining in general in the United States, but overall, the use of mental health resources is staying the same.
- New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to improve your mental health in 2023
- Some of the most important New Year’s resolutions are going to therapy, journaling, and getting better sleep.
If you're struggling with mental health in the new year, you're certainly not alone. From 2005 to 2015, the number of people in the United States diagnosed with depression rose by an estimated 2.3 million.
Since 2015, especially during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, that number has likely skyrocketed.
Unfortunately, access to and utilization of mental health services and information have not increased in that same time frame.
Let's help change that. Here are the nine best New Year's resolutions you can make for your mental health in 2023:
#1: Go to Therapy, Finally
If you're reading this, there is a good chance you are at least somewhat aware of your mental health and how therapy can help. If you're not already in therapy, there may be a number of things holding you back. Here's why you shouldn't let them.
Therapy, like everything else, costs money. Luckily, therapy offices like Williamsburg Therapy Group partner with Nirvana, an electronic reimbursement company that processes out-of-network claims, to help ease the financial burden.
You can also reduce the cost of therapy by choosing a specialized therapist who may be able to get results in fewer sessions.
Opening up, especially after keeping yourself closed for a long time, can be terrifying. Even though you know everything you say to your therapist is strictly confidential, you still get nervous thinking about how they'll react when you tell them your deepest, darkest thoughts.
But here's the thing: your therapist probably won't react to anything you say—at least not negatively.
No matter what's going on in your brain, you can pretty much guarantee your therapist will have heard it—and much, much worse—a hundred times before. Your therapist is licensed to improve your mental health, not pass judgment. If they wanted to do that, they wouldn't have become therapists.
Go to bed early, get up early for work, make sure you go to the gym, make sure to hang out with your friends, blah, blah, blah. You work so hard to manage all of these things that giving yourself time to heal in therapy seems impossible.
You deserve time for yourself, though. Carve out a couple of hours per week to make sure your mental health is being taken care of.
Unfortunately, some people still believe that people can only go to therapy if they suffer an intense and debilitating trauma.
While therapy can certainly help in those situations, it's also good for pretty much anyone who just wants to be happier, healthier, and everything in between.
If you're noticing some mental health symptoms and want help navigating them, therapy is for you. If you've just had a death in the family, therapy is for you. And if you just want to talk through your feelings behind your promotion at work, therapy is great for that, too!
Whatever your reason for hesitating on going to therapy, make it one of your 2023 New Year's resolutions to book your first session. Your mental health will thank you.
#2: Start Journaling
Mark Twain, Marie Curie, and Jennifer Anniston: all brilliant minds, all avid journalers.
Journaling is one of the most powerful tools you can use to improve your mental health on a day-to-day basis.
The basic idea is that throughout your day, your brain is busy doing many important things: telling your lungs to breathe and your heart to beat, soaking up adrenaline right before that big presentation, and begging your eyes not to roll at your coworkers' stupid weekend plans.
With all that work on its schedule, your brain doesn't have time to process some of the more important things that are happening to you.
Journaling is one of the best ways to organize and process your thoughts so that they can develop in a healthy way.
The hardest part of journaling is staying consistent. Don't worry, we have some tips for that too:
Set alarms for start times, and end times, of journaling sessions every day.
Set a timer on your phone for, say, 6 p.m., right as you get home from work. Set another timer for 6:10 pm to signal the end of your journaling time. Make sure they recur every day so you can stay consistent.
Setting a start time reminds you to journal in the first place, while setting an end time prevents you from getting "lost" in your journal.
Only journal about one day at a time.
One of the most common mistakes journalers make is trying to go back too far when writing about their thoughts and daily activities.
Trying to stretch your journaling backwards can lead to burnout, which isn't good. If you accidentally skip a few days, too, keeping your journaling to one-day-at-a-time makes it much easier to get back into it.
Get a guided journal.
The third largest reason why journalers quit is because they get sick of having writers' block.
Sometimes you have days where so little happens that it's hard to find anything to write about. And sometimes you have days where so much happens that you have no idea where to even start.
A guided journal solves both of these problems by offering prompts and tips for each day. Some guided journals get very specific and ask questions like:
- What was one thing that could have gone better today?
- Did anything make you sad today? Did anything make you happy?
- What surprised you today?
- What steps did you take for self-care today?
Using a guided journal makes journaling easier, and easier journaling is more likely to be consistent.
#3: Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can help you become more aware of your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being. There are many ways to practice mindfulness, such as:
- Simply taking a few deep breaths and focusing on your breath
- Spending time in nature
By being mindful and observing your own thoughts, as well as how they relate to the world around you, you're pulling yourself out of your own head. Actively choosing mindfulness can really help you gain perspective on your problems, clear your mind of negative thoughts, and generally make you more present.
#4: Get Enough Sleep
Quality sleep is essential for both physical and mental health. Lack of sleep can lead to a range of issues, including difficulty concentrating, irritability, and an increased risk of depression and anxiety.
Make a resolution to prioritize sleep by creating a bedtime routine, avoiding screens before bed, and creating a comfortable sleep environment.
Here is a great nightly routine to improve your sleep in 2023. In this example, we're assuming you have a standard 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job and that you wake up at 7 a.m.
Best Bedtime Routine To Improve Sleep
- 10 PM: Turn off your phone (or put it on "do not disturb") and journal about your day for 10 minutes. Don't look at your phone again before bed.
- 10:10 PM: Take a warm shower with all the fix-ins (i.e. not just a rinse, but shampoo and body wash)
- 10:30 PM: Get into bed in whatever is comfortable. Naked is fine, as is the full Ebenezer Scrooge. It can also help to turn on a fan to keep air moving and make the room less stuffy.
- If you're still feeling awake, read a book in bed. Not a Kindle or an iPad, but a real book with paper and ink.
Try not to eat about one to two hours before bed, since digestion can keep you up. Alcohol, while it can make you feel sleepy, actually reduces the quality of your sleep, so be aware of that.
#5: Exercise Regularly
Researchers have found that exercise has a number of positive effects on mental health, such as lowering stress, improving mood, and boosting self-esteem. Make a New Year’s resolution to exercise regularly, whether it's through a structured workout program or just going for a walk every day.
Mental and physical health can be closely related, so as cliche as it sounds, a healthy body might just be a healthy mind. Plus, exercise boosts your endorphins, which can make you feel good, even if it's just for a little while.
At-Home New Year’s Resolution Workout:
Here is a quick at-home exercise routine you can do with no weights, no equipment, and no one watching:
- 30 pushups total
- 5 minutes of jogging in place
- 30 bodyweight squats total
- Plank for 1 minute total
Not many people can do all of these in one go, so feel free break each total up into sets of however many you can do. Try to go until failure for each set to really get your heart going.
This routine should only take about 10 to 15 minutes, and it can have a profound effect on your mood, the quality of your sleep, and more.
Of course, talk to your doctor before exercising if you have any physical conditions.
#6: Eat a Healthy Diet
What you eat can have a significant impact on your mental health. A healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help improve mood and reduce the risk of mental health issues.
On the other hand, a diet high in processed and sugary foods can contribute to feelings of low mood and irritability. Make a resolution to focus on nourishing your physical health with healthy, balanced meals.
And remember: Don't beat yourself up if you decide to have a treat every once in a while. That's just fine.
#7: Practice Gratitude
Focusing on the things you're grateful for can help improve your overall sense of well-being. Make a resolution to regularly express gratitude, whether through writing in a gratitude journal, sharing with friends and family, or simply taking a moment to appreciate the good things in your life.
Studies have shown that gratitude can lead to increased happiness and well-being, as well as improved physical health and stronger relationships. Practicing gratitude can be as simple as taking a few moments each day to think about the things you're thankful for.
Sometimes, it can be really hard to find something to be thankful for. Here's a quick list of small things that you can practice gratitude on:
- How fast hummingbirds can move
- The chill of winter on your cheeks
- A stranger smiling at their phone (was it a funny meme or an "I love you" text?)
- The smell of a bakery in the morning
By focusing on the positive aspects of our lives, we can cultivate a sense of contentment and joy. Gratitude can be a powerful tool in improving our overall well-being and can be easily incorporated into our daily routines.
#8: Seek Social Support
A strong network of supportive relationships can be a key part of keeping your mental health in good shape. Make new year's resolutions to prioritize your relationships, whether it's by reaching out to friends and family, joining a club or organization, or volunteering in your community.
Socializing is pretty important to the human brain, and while having friends usually isn't enough to eliminate a mental illness or mental health symptoms, at least it means you have people to talk to about them.
Here is an easy way to quickly improve your relationships with friends and family:
- Make a numbered list of everyone you care about and want to improve your relationship with
- Set a daily timer on your phone with the label "Time to reach out"
- Ask Siri (or Google) to pick a random number between 1 and however many people are on your list.
- Text or call the person whose number it gives you with a question, such as:
- "How did your day go today?"
- "How was your [insert life or work event]?"
- "Do you want to hang out this weekend?"
- Or any other somewhat personal but easy-to-answer question
The hardest part of maintaining friendships and family ties is maintaining consistent contact. It's easy to get so busy that you forget to reach out, so having a plan in place to make it easy to reach out can work wonders for your social life.
#9: Manage Stress
Stress is a normal part of life, but excessive stress can have negative effects on your mental health. Make a resolution to find healthy ways to manage stress, such as through relaxation techniques like:
- Deep breathing
- Setting emotional and social boundaries
- Making time for self-care
High-stress levels can lock up your mind and make it hard to process things, so your New Year's resolutions should include a way to manage stress.
New Year's resolutions are easy to make but less easy to stick to. Our challenge to you for 2023 is to be consistent with taking steps to improve your mood, life, social circle, and mental health in general.
Therapy can be a great way to help with that. Williamsburg Therapy Group's team of world-class psychologists is ready to help you feel better, treat your mental illness, or just be an ear for your thoughts.
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