The new year is an inspiring time — especially when we see others committing to running a marathon, losing weight or dieting. Goals don’t have to be physical, like exercising more or eating healthier. Setting a resolution to prioritize mental health is an important step in supporting your overall wellbeing.
It’s easy for New Year’s resolutions to get off track: out of the 60 percent of adults who make a resolution, only 8 percent keep them. We often feel discouraged when this happens — which can lead to negative self-talk and thoughts. A negative inner monologue can lead to inconsistency, while a positive mindset can have the opposite effect.
Power of positivity
Feelings of optimism and gratefulness can affect an individual’s mood and help individuals cope with everyday stresses and challenges. Finding intentional ways to boost mental health can start small, like engaging in positive self-talk or expressing gratitude daily.
Mental health goals to try:
- Affirmations: Incorporate reminders like “I am confident” and “I am capable” — these can foster personality traits that positively influence feelings of satisfaction.
- Gratitude: List things that bring feelings of thankfulness.
- Reach out: Ask for help when needed.
- Meditation: Take 10 minutes in the beginning of the day to quiet the mind and focus on the present.
- Try something new: Variety can improve self-esteem and confidence and bring joy.
When setting goals — whether for mental health or otherwise — it’s easy to fall into the same traps of overcommitting to a lofty goal, and then being let down when reality falls short.
Tips for goal setting:
- Don’t set the bar too high: Making an unrealistic goal won’t set anyone up for success.
- Separate one big goal into small chunks: Losing 25 pounds is overwhelming. Instead, break that into achievable steps — like losing two pounds a month. Completing this smaller goal can build momentum toward the larger goal.
- Success won’t come immediately: Instant gratification from goal setting isn’t possible. Just because someone starts exercising or meditating Jan. 1 doesn’t mean they’ll have their desired body or a handle on their stress by Jan. 10. Resolutions are about how someone wants to look or feel by Dec. 31 — there’s a whole year to get there.
- Set a goal that doesn’t cause dread: If the goal gives the “ugh” feeling, why set it? Resolutions don’t have to mean 5 a.m. workouts at the gym. They can be simply adding fun to life by making time for hobbies, family or friends — all moments that can improve mental health.
- Prioritize self-care: Making time for self-care is a way to set things up for a great year ahead. Activities can include working out at a gym, cooking a healthy meal or taking time for a hobby — or scheduling a routine appointment with a doctor or dentist. Self-care can also mean setting boundaries, adding breaks for reading, meditation or committing to social activities.
Reaching mental health goals doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Just as an individual may seek a doctor for help with a physical illness, behavioral health professionals can help with emotional challenges.
About the author: Kristyn Gregory is medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.