Happy and (Mentally) Healthy New Year!

Photo by Brigitte Tohm from Pexels.

Did you know that only 8% of Americans end up following through with their New Year’s resolutions? Experts believe that the more tangible and concrete your resolution is, the more likely you are to set yourself up for success. (For more on how to achieve a SMART goal, read this related post.)

Resolution-setting can be additionally complicated for people with, or without, a history of eating disorders because so frequently our culture emphasizes setting goals related to appearance, weight, diet, or exercise. This year, if you are inclined to establish resolutions for the year to come (and no pressure if that’s not your thing), we challenge you to set tangible goals related to a non-appearance, non-weight-centered aspect of who you are or who you want to be. Think: psychological wellbeing.

In case it’s hard to know where to start, here are a few ideas:

  1. Start a hobby that makes you feel good.

Find an activity that you find to be soothing, enjoyable, or just plain fun. Research has found that behavioral activation (which are just fancy words for engaging in activities that are thought to improve mood and socializing) can reduce symptoms of depression. Doing first and letting the feeling follow provides a valuable opportunity to learn what brings pleasure or provides relief from painful emotions.

Ways to translate this idea into a tangible goal:

  • See a friend at least once a week
  • Sign up for an interesting class that meets regularly (e.g., pottery, a language class)
  • Try a new cultural activity (e.g. museum or concert) monthly
  1. Go for gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Studies suggests that engaging in behaviors that promote feelings of gratitude can increase happiness and reduce depression. In the midst of difficult experiences or feelings, momentarily shifting your focus towards gratitude may help reinforce that little is “all good” or “all bad.” Rather, from one day to the next, there are usually ups and downs and it’s useful to pay at least as much attention to the ups as the downs.

Ways to translate this idea into a tangible goal:

  • Write down three things that you are thankful for every night before going to bed
  • Set an alarm to go off midday to remind you to look for something to appreciate, no matter how small
  1. Limit screen time.

Scientists have found that increased screen time is associated with poor sleep quality and low Taking time away from work (e.g. a short break during the day or a full day off) can promote mental wellbeing.

Ways to translate this idea into a tangible goal:

  • Set time limits for how much time you want to spend on your phone or specific apps. Ironically, there are apps to do just this!
  • Configure your smartphone or tablet so that your work e-mail is no longer on your home screen
  • Reduce the number of apps that you permit to send push notifications throughout the day
  • Experiment with putting your smartphone someplace slightly less accessible in your home so that you think before you reach for it
  1. Take good care of your mind.

Make a resolution to seek mental health treatment if you are feeling like you need it. If you had a cold would you go to the doctor? Remember to treat your mental health as seriously as your physical health.

Ways to translate this idea into a tangible goal:

  • Try to take nature breaks throughout the day
  • Talk openly with close friends about you are feeling or seek out peer support groups
  • Seek out treatment if you feel you are not in a good place
  1. Make time for meditation.

Research has found that ‘simply being,’ a present-focused state cultivated through meditation, can decrease psychological stress and anxiety.

Ways to translate this idea into a tangible goal:

  • Try one of the many meditation apps on the market
  • Incorporate mindfulness into one of your daily activities. For example, rather than just going through the motions of a shower, be mindful of the sensation of hot water on your body, smell of fresh shampoo, and the sound of the water flowing out of the shower head
  • Take a meditation class

Remember that resolutions or goals can be set at any time of the year. New Year’s need not be the only time of the year to self-reflect. Happy and healthy New Year!

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