2020 has been a year of loss due to COVID-19. People have lost loved ones, their jobs, their freedom in some capacity, and many have lost their mental well-being. Staying positive is difficult when you are trapped alone in your apartment all day and millions of people are either struggling to pay bills and put food on the table or getting sick and dying. But luckily, 2021 is a new year, and with vaccines being distributed as you read this, we can finally see the light the at the end of the tunnel. Now is the time to focus on yourself again. Check out some of our tips on how you can improve your mental health in the New Year.
Even in a year as horrible as 2020, there is always something to be grateful for. If you have your health, a roof over your head and clothes on your back, those are things to appreciate. 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 who is 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 if you do not like where your life is heading, it is never too late to make a change. This can refer 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 truly enjoy.
3.Focus on Self-care
Cutting out negativity leads us to our next point: self-care. You may be the type of person that says yes to everything and are always the one people go to for help. While flattering, it can get quite stressful and gives you little time to focus on yourself and your own problems. Remember that it is okay to say no. Sleep is an important aspect of self-care. Scientifically, lack of sleep can lead to feelings of anger and depression1. 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 a great deal of vitamin D, which helps our brains release chemicals, bettering our moods2.
Getting a good workout in would be tough 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 system3.
6. Set Realistic Goals
Setting goals is important because it gives you something to aim 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: we cannot change the past or decide what happens in the future. All we have control over is right now. Uncontrollable life events constantly get in our way (i.e. COVID-19) and it might delay some of your goals. That’s okay. Think only about how your decisions of today 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 biggest aspect of having good mental health is accepting yourself as you are. Everyone makes mistakes and has their own flaws. Nobody is perfect and people must stop believing they can be. However, everyone has their own uniqueness and set of 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 on our own. 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 people4.If you are coronavirus-wary, 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 disorder. 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 2021 the year of bettering your mental health as it will not only positively impact your life but the ones around you as well.
1. How to Improve Mental Health.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 10 Dec. 2020.
2. “10 Top Tips for Good Mental Health.” 10 Top Tips for Good Mental Health – People First.
3. Melinda. “Building Better Mental Health.” HelpGuide.org.
4. Westra, Dr. “The Effectiveness of Psychotherapy: What the Research Tells Us.” Find a Psychologist, 18 Feb. 2020.