New Year’s Eve is commonly associated with partying, either with or without alcohol, as a way of celebrating the end of a year and the beginning of a new one.

The final day of the calendar year is also a chance to envision resolutions for the new year. These goals could be anything from a career change to health improvements, and many people focus on improving their mental health in the upcoming year.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, nearly 19 percent of American adults reported a mental health disorder in the past year. That percentage went up from 2016, which is a sign that mental health disorders are becoming more prevalent in the United States. Struggling with anxiety, depression or another mental illness can negatively affect your relationships with family or friends, performance at work, career aspirations, self-confidence and overall happiness.

Many people mark their calendars for Jan. 1 as the date they’ll begin fulfilling their goals. Why wait, though? If one of your planned resolutions is achieving better mental health, there are steps you can take before the end of the year to ensure the improvements start immediately.

Schedule a Therapy Appointment

Some of the best remedies for anxiety or depression are talking about the associated feelings, uncovering the roots of their existence and learning coping mechanisms for the future. All three of these remedies can be accomplished in a session with a licensed therapist.

Either in one-on-one meetings or in a group setting with a romantic partner or another loved one, detailing recent or long-ago events that have caused mental health struggles can be the first step toward healing. There are scientifically-proven benefits to discussing your feelings, even if the natural inclination is to hold them in. That’s what Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology, said in a study that dissected how verbalizing emotions can diminish the severity of those same emotions.

“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 or the severity of them.

Plan to Participate in a New Passion

Sometimes simply changing up your routine and adding a new activity can be the jolt of positive energy that you need. The benefits of hobbies for reducing stress range from taking a mental and physical break from work or home-life obligations to becoming more social and meeting new friends.

If you’re into physical activities, then consider joining an exercise gym or something similar (such as a softball league or a yoga studio) as a means of exerting energy and releasing stress. Even an activity that doesn’t require as much of a commitment — such as a weekly pickup basketball game — could be a beneficial addition to your routine if you enjoy sports and working 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, enrolling in an art class, learning a musical instrument and enrolling in school can improve your mental health. Consider what your favorite hobbies are and either participate in them more often or make them your new priorities for the new year.

Go on an All-Healthy-Food Grocery Trip

What you eat can affect how you feel. Felice Jacka, president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, said that that diet has as much of an effect on mental health as it does physical wellbeing.

“A healthy diet is protective and an unhealthy diet is a risk factor for depression and anxiety,” she said.

Fried foods, white bread and processed meats can have physical-health consequences, such as weight gain or a lack of energy, which 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 for either can lead to extreme mood swings and depression. Foods such as spinach, kale, fruit and certain fish like salmon and tuna provide these healthy vitamins and regulate serotonin, which interacts with the brain and manages a person’s mood.

Next time you go to the grocery store, buy healthy food to begin to overhaul what’s inside your refrigerator and kitchen cabinets. By Jan. 1, you’ll be ready to implement a new-and-improved diet.

Go to Sleep Earlier

Another way to improve your mental health: get more sleep. Medical experts recommend a minimum of 7 hours and a maximum of 9 hours of sleep per night. Many people who have full-time jobs must be up early most mornings — the same can be said for parents or owners of young pets — and going to sleep too late results in too little rest for the body.

However, many people struggle to get an adequate amount of sleep, in part due to overwhelming amounts of stress or anxiety. According to Mental Health America, approximately two-thirds of Americans lose sleep due to stress. Medical experts have also linked having a mental illness to experiencing insomnia.

Just as a mental health disorder can cause a lack of sleep, the opposite cause-and-effect relationship can happen. 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 prioritize winding down early enough so that you get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. Even if you sit in bed and read a book or magazine, you’re likely to enter dreamland in a short amount of time and feel well-rested in the morning.

While New Year’s Eve is often celebrated by staying up until midnight to welcome the new calendar year, if you stay up to usher in 2019, wind down soon after to ensure you get a healthy amount of sleep. When you wake up on Jan. 1, you’ll feel energized, which will raise your spirits as you begin the new year.

How to Make 2019 a Better Year for Your Mental Health
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