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Minding your Mental Health: New Year Edition

When we consider what our New Year’s resolutions goals look like, we often take into account our physical health. We see the new year as a great time to start minding your mental health by eating healthier, hitting the gym more often, or working off any excess weight from the holidays.

However, what we neglect to consider is the importance of our mental health and well-being. What better time to start working on our minds as a way to better ourselves than making some simple changes this New Year?

Here are some helpful resolutions that are not only easy to stick to, but they are made to instill us with more energy, confidence, and motivation to help us take on 2023 as a new, elevated version of ourselves. Now let's look at how minding your mental health can look this year.

Make Room for Compassion

Compassion is an important trait that should be prioritized this upcoming year (and for years to come). Oftentimes confused with empathy, which is the emotional experience of another person’s feelings, compassion is the feeling that arises when we are confronted with another person's pain or suffering and feel a strong sense of desire to relieve them of their suffering.

In other words, compassion is regarded as being sensitive or in tune with the emotional expression of another person. Studies have found that individuals who live a compassionate lifestyle are less susceptible to stress and disease, which may help to improve their health and longevity.

Though many of us carry a high level of compassion from within, it’s still something that should be practiced regularly – both outwardly and inwardly. This is a great start for minding your mental health.

Outward vs. Inward Compassion

Outward expressions of compassion may include speaking to others with kindness, especially when the person you’re speaking of is not physically present in the conversation, celebrating other’s successes, offering advice or assistance to someone in need, listening intently without judgment, or apologizing when you’ve made a mistake. This form of compassion can help quiet the ego and provide more opportunities to relay our good energy to those in need.

On the other hand, inward expressions of compassion, also known as self-compassion, is the act of expressing kindness to ourselves. Some excellent ways to do this are by creating a productive self-care routine, forgiving ourselves for any perceived inadequacies or failures, being mindful of our emotions, and practicing positive self-talk.

Welcome Joy into Your Heart

Joy is another beneficial component to improving mental health. Studies have found that joyful people are more likely to have better immune systems, experience lower levels of stress, and have a decreased risk of having a heart attack.

On an emotional level, we can feel joy in several ways – tearfully, euphorically, with a deep sense of love, and more.

On a biological level, joy is expressed through the release of specific neurotransmitters, which are small chemical messenger cells that signal between other cells throughout our body. More specifically, joy is associated with serotonin, the “happy hormone” responsible for making us feel more optimistic and motivated, increasing our levels of attention, and helping us combat symptoms of depression. 

Being open to welcoming more moments of joy into our hearts takes practice. Rather than assuming joy comes naturally, it can help to seek out opportunities that will create a joyful reaction from within. This can include getting outside for a walk, petting a dog or cat, kissing or cuddling a loved one, spending time laughing with friends, or exercising your body. Don't these all sound like great additions to our day when we focus on minding our mental health?

Even something as simple as forcing ourselves to smile can simulate feelings of joy! Research has found that smiling can actually trick your brain to elevate your mood, lower your heart rate, and reduce symptoms of stress.

Listen to Your Body

Being more in tune with how you’re feeling on a regular basis is a beneficial skill to practice. Oftentimes, pain, fatigue, or discomfort is the body’s warning light. Whether it means that we’ve pulled a muscle at the gym or have reached our limits of mental stress at work, these signals can be our guide to better health and well-being.

Signals may be emotional such as feeling worried or agitated. Signals may also be physical such as experiencing a fast heart rate or ongoing headaches. No matter the type of signal, being able to listen to your body can help make it easier to identify what you’re experiencing and help us quickly and accurately recognize the cause of these symptoms.

In these situations, it’s helpful to keep a journal and make daily check-in notes for yourself. For example, “Today I felt mild anxiety at 10:00 am and would rate it at a 5/10”.

Other important factors to keep track of include your current sleep schedule (i.e. how many hours you’re getting every night), your emotional state after eating certain foods (i.e feeling more or less energized), and how you feel before and after exercise.

Be Open to New Opportunities

Do you find yourself regularly overanalyzing your life and the possibilities to take on new challenges? Though it is very normal to get caught up in a spiral of “what ifs” when approaching a new opportunity, it may be more beneficial for your mental health by taking the plunge into the unknown.

Opening yourself up to new opportunities starts by escaping your comfort zone. This psychological state is described as a zone of familiarity, safety, ease, and security. Saying "yes" to new activities, taking on new projects, and being willing to explore new hobbies can help you push past your own limits, learn more about yourself, and grow as an individual.

Another important aspect of this is by removing the fear of failure from your mind. Without any form of risk, there can never be a reward. Focusing on positive self-talk is an excellent way to adapt your mentality and recognize that there is no shame in taking chances and making a mistake!

“Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity”

– H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Consider Therapy

Therapy is not just for the bad days! Though for many years, we’ve been told that therapy is for those struggling with mental illness, it’s not the only benefit.

Psychotherapists offer new hope, a fresh perspective, and well-rounded, professional guidance on our problems. Most importantly, therapy gives us a safe, trusting, and judgment-free space to share our deepest thoughts and feelings.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a great example of this. CBT is a structured and problem-focused form of psychotherapy that helps individuals learn to identify, question, and modify their everyday thoughts and behaviours to enhance their overall well-being. Though it is found to be an effective form of treatment for depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug problems, marital challenges, eating disorders and more, it’s also used to challenge us to grow as individuals and couples. 

The Bottom Line

As we approach the New Year, it may be time to rethink our resolutions. Adopting new habits that help strengthen your mental health can do wonders for your confidence, relationships, and happiness. Is this the year that you will work on minding your mental health?

If you’re searching for guidance this New Year, reach out for support. At On Your Mind Counselling, our team of psychologists is experienced in a wide scope of psychotherapies that are tailored to you and your individual needs. Book a free 30-minute consultation today!

Written by the OYMC Team

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