Wow, 2021 flew by! It feels like just yesterday we were celebrating the end of one of the worst years of all our lives. Since last year, a lot of progress has been made: COVID-19 vaccinations are now available to everyone aged five and up, and booster shots are now available to everyone aged 16 and up; businesses are bringing their employees back to work or using a hybrid method, and the unemployment rate is down more than 2% from last January; fans of sports, music, and theater have returned to the stands to cheer on their favorite performers; and life has returned to normal. However, with new variants of COVID surging—Delta and most recently, Omicron, which made of 3% of new cases the week of December 51—the virus continues to disrupt people’s plans and set their goals back.
Do not let this keep you down. You cannot use COVID as an excuse forever! Stressful and uncontrollable life events are inevitable, but only you have the power not to let them get in the way of your objectives. Below, we list ten ways to pick yourself and your mental health up and gear up for the New Year.
1) Practice Gratitude
Even though COVID-19 is still lurking around and putting a damper on your plans, there is always something to be thankful for. Those are things to appreciate if you have your health, a roof over your head, and clothes on your back. Start a daily/weekly gratitude log and write down all the things that put a smile on your face. It could be as serious as getting a new job or as simple as having a really good lunch. It is important to remember there is always someone worse off than you are, so do not take what you have for granted.
2) Make a Change
We understand that new experiences can be scary, but it is never too late to make a change if you do not like where your life is heading. This can refer to your career, a relationship, a diet, or even an attitude. If someone or something is not helping you grow as a person, it is okay to cut it out of your daily routine. Make more time for the things you genuinely enjoy.
3) Practice Self-care
Cutting out negativity leads us to our next point: self-care. You may be the type of person who says yes to everything and is always the one others go to for help. While flattering, it can get quite stressful and gives you little time to focus on yourself and your problems. Remember that it is okay to say no. Sleep is an essential aspect of self-care. Scientifically, lack of sleep can lead to feelings of anger and depression.2 Meditation is good for the mind and body, as well. It can help ease your anxiety and reduce stress.
4) Pick Up a New Hobby
The new year is a perfect time to get out of your comfort zone and try something new. What have you always wanted to try but were too nervous or never had the time to do? Attempt new recipes, learn how to play an instrument, read a new book, join a gym or yoga class; whatever the activity is, trying something different will stimulate brain muscles and improve your mental health.
There is a correlation between mental and physical health, so exercise and a good diet can enhance mental well-being. Regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, relieve stress, and improve memory and concentration. This does not mean you have to run a marathon or spend two hours at the gym every day. A bike ride, walk around the park, playing with your children or dogs in the backyard all count as exercise. Just getting some sunlight can provide one’s body with a great deal of vitamin D, which helps our brains release chemicals, bettering our moods.3
Getting a good workout in would be challenging without a healthy diet. You need the correct nutrients to energize and replenish the body, including a good balance of fruits, vegetables, carbs, proteins, and plenty of water. Try to minimize salt and sugar intake. An unhealthy diet can take a toll on your brain and mood, disrupt your sleep, decrease energy levels, and weaken your immune system.4
6) Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals is essential because it gives you something to strive for. However, if the goals are too high, the constant unsuccessful attempts will upset and weigh you down, causing low self-esteem and depression. Make a list with several small, short-term goals and one long-term one. As you achieve the short-term goals, cross them off the list. This will give you courage and motivate you to keep going to achieve that long-term goal.
7) Live in the Moment
As mentioned before, new experiences are scary and cause people to stress about what the future holds. The thing about life is that we cannot change the past or decide what happens. All we have control over is right now. Uncontrollable life events constantly get in our way, which might delay some of your goals. That’s okay. Think only about how your today’s decisions will affect tomorrow and let life control the rest.
8) Keep a Diary/Journal
We have previously mentioned how writing things down can help improve your mood and achieve your goals. Keeping a diary or journal allows you to reflect on all the good and bad things that have happened and track how much you have grown over time. For example, you may look back on something that happened three months ago and process how the new you would have handled that situation differently.
9) Accept who you are
The most significant aspect of having good mental health is accepting yourself as you are. Everyone makes mistakes and has flaws. Nobody is perfect, and people must stop believing they can be. However, everyone has their uniqueness and skills that they have to recognize and embrace. It is hard for others to love you if you cannot love yourself.
10) Ask for Help
Life is big and scary, and we cannot do it independently. Do not be afraid to ask a friend or family member for help when you feel overwhelmed. If you have made consistent efforts to improve your mental health and still are not functioning optimally, it may be time to seek professional help. Therapy is effective for 79% of people.5 If you are still uncomfortable seeing someone in person, many psychologists have telehealth options where you can speak to them virtually. When all else fails, antidepressants such as Lexapro, Celexa, and Zoloft can help patients manage their mental disorders. Admitting weakness is the greatest sign of strength.
Your mental health should always be a priority, and you have the power to take positive steps to improve it. Make 2022 the year of bettering yourself as it will positively impact your life and the ones around you.
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- Carbajal, Erica. “Omicron accounts for 3% of new US COVID-19 cases.” Becker’s Hospital Review, Dec. 14, 2021. https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/omicron-accounts-for-3-of-new-us-covid-19-cases.html
- “How to Improve Mental Health.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Dec. 2020, medlineplus.gov/howtoimprovementalhealth.html.
- “10 Top Tips for Good Mental Health.” 10 Top Tips for Good Mental Health – People First, www.peoplefirstinfo.org.uk/health-and-well-being/mental-health/10-top-tips-for-good-mental-health/.
- Melinda. “Building Better Mental Health.” HelpGuide.org, www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/building-better-mental-health.htm.
- Westra, Dr. “The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy: What the Research Tells Us.” Find a Psychologist, 18 Feb. 2020, www.findapsychologist.org/the-effectiveness-of-psychotherapy-what-the-research-tells-us/.