Many celebrate New Year’s Eve as a way of sending out the old and bringing in the new, and they take this day to create resolutions for the upcoming year. These goals could be related to career ambitions, fitness, health, finances or countless other areas of life. One of the biggest focus areas for many is to improve mental health in the new year.
According to the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 47.6 million American adults reported a mental health disorder in the past year. This is an increase from about 46.6 million in 2017, which is a sign that mental health disorders are becoming more prevalent in the United States. Anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions can negatively affect relationships with family or friends, work performance, self-confidence and overall happiness.
If one of your planned resolutions is to achieve better mental health, there are steps you can take now to ensure the improvements start immediately.
Schedule a Therapy Appointment
Some of the best ways to treat anxiety or depression are to talk about feelings, uncover the cause of these feelings and learn coping mechanisms for the future. All three of these remedies can be accomplished in a session with a licensed therapist.
Whether it’s in individual meetings or a group setting, detailing past events that have caused mental health struggles can be the first step toward healing. Evidence shows there are benefits to discussing your feelings, even if the natural inclination is to hold them in. Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology, conducted a study that uncovered how verbalizing emotions can diminish their severity.
“When you put feelings into words, you’re activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala,” Lieberman said. “In the same way you hit the brake when you’re driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses.”
Look into local mental health treatment options and consider scheduling the first session as early as possible. Counseling can benefit anyone, regardless of what internal struggles they have.
Plan to Participate in a New Passion
Changing up your routine and adding a new activity can often be the jolt of positive energy that you need. Hobbies reduce stress by helping you take a mental and physical break from obligations at work or home, and they help you to become more social and meet new friends.
If you’re into physical activities, consider joining a fitness center or something similar, such as a softball league or a yoga studio. Exercise in any form works as a way to exert energy and release stress. Even an activity that doesn’t require much of a commitment, such as a weekly pickup basketball game, could be a beneficial addition to your routine if you enjoy sports and want to work up a sweat.
Activities involving physical movement aren’t the only types of activities you can participate in to reduce your stress, anxiety or depression. Planning trips to new places, joining an art program, learning a musical instrument and enrolling in school are other ways you can also improve your mental health. Consider what your favorite hobbies are and either participate in them more often or make them your priorities for the new year.
Go on an All-Healthy-Food Grocery Trip
What you eat can affect how you feel, both physically and mentally. Eating fried foods, white bread and processed meats can have physical health consequences, such as weight gain or lowered energy. These effects can increase a person’s anxiety and depression as their self-confidence decreases.
Additionally, these unhealthy foods do not possess certain vitamins and nutrients that can naturally make people feel better. Vitamins B and D each affect a person’s mood, and a deficiency of either can lead to extreme mood swings and depression. Foods such as spinach, kale, fruit and fish like salmon and tuna provide these healthy vitamins and regulate serotonin, which interacts with the brain and manages a person’s mood.
The next time you go to the grocery store, buy healthy food and begin to overhaul what’s inside your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.
Go to Sleep Earlier
Another way to improve your mental health is to get more sleep. Medical experts recommend a minimum of seven hours of sleep per night. Many people with jobs, children or pets must be up early most mornings, but when people go to sleep too late and still get up early, their body receives too little rest. In 2014, 35.2% of American adults reported that they commonly slept less than the recommended amount.
Many people also struggle to get an adequate amount of sleep due to overwhelming amounts of stress and anxiety, and a lack of sleep can also negatively impact mental health. According to a report from Harvard University, sleep disruption can affect neurotransmitter levels and stress hormones, which impairs how the brain regulates a person’s emotions.
To get more sleep, you should make sure to wind down early enough to get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Even if you sit in bed and read a book or magazine, you’re likely to fall asleep more quickly and feel well-rested in the morning.
Though you may stay up until midnight to celebrate New Year’s Eve, wind down soon after to ensure you get a healthy amount of sleep. You’ll feel energized when you awaken in the new year, which will raise your spirits and help kick off a great start to 2020.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” (n.d.). Accessed December 27, 2019.
ScienceDaily. “Putting Feelings Into Words Produces Therapeutic Effects In The Brain.” June 22, 2007. Accessed December 27, 2019.
Selhub, Eva. “Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food.” Harvard Health Publishing, April 5, 2018. Accessed December 27, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Short Sleep Duration Among US Adults.” May 2, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2019.
Sleep Foundation. “Stress and Insomnia.” (n.d.). Accessed December 27, 2019.
Harvard Mental Health Letter. “Sleep and Mental Health.” March 18, 2019. Accessed December 27, 2019.