Featured on Forbes. Author: Noma Nazish
As 2019 begins, it's time to reflect on the past and set goals for the year ahead.
But before you decide to (finally) quit smoking or eat less sugar, why not consider investing in your mental health as well?
This year, resolve to implement these five simple strategies to improve your mental health and happiness:
- Be kind to yourself. Don't be so hard on yourself that you forget to enjoy the life you have. Whenever you find yourself ruminating, refocus your attention toward all the things you have, goals you've already accomplished and people who love and support you. Know that we all make mistakes and setbacks of any kind are part of the learning process. Research suggests that constant self-criticism and perfectionism doesn't just increase stress but can also hamper productivity and spur mental illnesses like depression and eating disorders. The key is to be more self-accepting and have realistic goals and expectations in life. Also, make time for yourself no matter how jam-packed your schedule is. Take regular breaks to unwind and invest in self-care. In addition, surround yourself with people who support and inspire you. And let go of toxic relationships that leave you mentally and emotionally drained. Here's a great post on how to cultivate self-compassion.
- Meditate: There's no dearth of scientific evidence to highlight the numerous health benefits of meditation. Besides staving off stress, it sharpens focus, improves mood, boosts memory and promotes sleep. What's more, it might even be better than taking a vacation! Meditating for as little as ten minutes every morning is enough to reap its benefits. There are quite a few types of meditation practices to choose from, including mindfulness meditation, walking meditation and transcendental meditation. Here's a helpful articleon how to choose the one that's best for you.
- Immerse yourself in nature. Whether you go for a hike, long walk or forest bathing, spending time outdoors can be very beneficial for your mental wellbeing. Engaging with nature lowers stress and anxiety, elevates mood, enhances self-esteem, stimulates creativity and improves working memory. Research suggests that even activities like gardening and green exercise promote relaxation and reduce cortisol levels in your body. If you don't know where to start, here's a quick guide on how to connect with nature in your everyday life.
- Set clear priorities. Set yourself up for a more fulfilling new year by evaluating your priorities and spending your time and energy judiciously. Make sure your priorities align with your life goals. Start by making a list of five or six goals you wish to achieve this year, both professional and personal ones. Then prioritize all your tasks with those goals in mind. It will help you stay motivated, focused and achieve the desired end results without burning out. Also, set clear boundaries to keep yourself from overcommitting. Committing to more tasks than you can actually do isn't just mentally exhausting but counter-productive as well. Here's an informative article on how to set clear goals and assess your priorities.
- Get enough sleep. Your sleeping pattern and mental health are intrinsically linked. Getting adequate zzz's enhances mood, memory, alertness, productivity, even creativity. The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep every night for optimal health. Staying sleep-deprived for long can lead to a host of health problems including anxiety, mental fatigue and weight gain. It also increases the risk of heart disease and depression and weakens the immune system. Bottom Line: Resolve to sleep for at least seven hours daily. If you've trouble falling asleep, check out this useful guide on how to sleep better. Other than that, eat healthy and workout for at least 15 minutes every day.
Happy New Year!