The impending arrival of a new year is a period where many of us will reflect on our lives. It’s important to look inward and consider what we’d like to do differently in the year to come. However, it’s equally important that we are mindful in our introspection instead of just focusing on our failures and tearing ourselves down. Rather than resolve to change who we are for the new year because we feel we aren’t good enough, we should look ahead to 2019 as an opportunity to grow and apply our earned wisdom to create a healthier, happier life.
Mental health was a major topic of discussion in 2018. With so many people coming forward about their own struggles, stigma has begun to shift, and we’re more accepting of conditions like anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. Once considered “made up” or “all in your head,” these psychological conditions are real disorders, often with biological components, that should be taken as seriously as any physical illness.
As the new year arrives, it’s time to focus more on your own well-being and consider how your mental health has impacted your life thus far. These tips will help you learn how to prioritize your mental health in 2019 and live one of your most transformative years yet.
Learn More About Mental Illness
Education is the gateway to recovery. So many people are unfamiliar with the statistics and nature of psychological disorders that they simply don’t know how to seek treatment. Many people may refuse treatment for conditions like substance use disorder because they don’t think anyone can break their addiction, or they may believe that a therapist is incapable of curing their depression because they view themselves as “broken” or “damaged.”
In a study published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a lead researcher at the Illinois Institute of Technology reported that about 40% of Americans refuse treatment for their mental health conditions because of stigma.
In order to recover, you have to understand the warning signs, symptoms and nature of mental illnesses. Whether it’s substance use disorder, depression, anxiety or something else entirely, learning about mental illness and how it impacts your life is the first step toward recovery.
You can start by checking out resources from major organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the American Psychological Association and mentalhealth.gov.
Learning about mental health and illnesses also makes us better equipped to help other people. If a friend or loved one is struggling with addiction, for example, it can be difficult trying to reach them or understand their behavior. Knowing the signs, symptoms, and experiences of people with substance use disorder can change our approach and make it easier for us to communicate with the people we care about.
With proper education, it becomes much easier to understand the importance of counseling and psychological intervention. You don’t go to a therapist because something is wrong with you; you go because you understand something isn’t working as it should, and you want to get better.
Studying mental illness removes shame and combats stigma. Once we understand that our brain is just as important as the rest of our body’s organs, getting treatment doesn’t feel like an admission of failure or guilt.
Seek Therapy or Help When You Need It
Our mental health encompasses many important facets of our being, including our decision-making ability, emotional expression, and relationships. Almost every social function we have in our lives is impacted by our mental health, and when you struggle with a disorder, it can negatively impact every facet of your life.
Many people who suffer from mental illness don’t realize how much a therapist can help. Those with substance use disorder might even be told by their own family and friends that their addiction is their fault and refuse treatment because they don’t believe anyone can ever help them.
As an addicted individual, it’s important to understand that your participation and commitment to getting sober is half the work. Without an open mind, no amount of therapy or rehab can make a difference; everything will just sound like advice meant for other people.
Mental illness in America is growing, and so is substance abuse. The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that over 21 million Americans over age 12 require some form of substance abuse treatment.
Every year, one in five U.S. adults experiences a mental disorder. That’s over 43 million people. No matter what you’re suffering from, you’re never alone. Seeking therapy or rehabilitation for your problems, even if you aren’t entirely sure what they are, can put you on the right path toward recovery.
Pursue New Interests
Stagnation is a major contributor to depression. If you feel like you’ve been stuck living the same day over and over again for ages, it’s time to regain control over your life by changing your routine. You may not be able to quit your job and travel the world, but you don’t have to completely overhaul your entire existence to experience change.
Start by looking at your passions. What makes you happy? You may not be able to think of something right now, and that’s OK. You have plenty to discover that will ignite a spark in you. Finding new interests and pursuing outside hobbies is great for building self-confidence, meeting new people and living a more active, healthy lifestyle.
If you like physical activities, why not look for a yoga or dance studio near you? You could also try something like kickboxing, martial arts or hiking. Physical exercise releases stress and anxiety and can even alleviate the symptoms of depression.
There are so many new things you can try out that will do wonders for your mental health. Apart from the distraction they’ll bring, new interests will also show you how much more there is to life than just what you see. Make a commitment to try at least one new thing a week whether it’s going to read a book at the coffee shop you always pass on your way to work or visiting the art museum.
It’s OK to drop activities that don’t interest you in pursuit of greater passions. What matters is that you’re adding diversity to your life and gaining new experiences in the process.
Practice Becoming More Mindful
Many people mistakenly believe that mindfulness and meditation are all about clearing your head of all thoughts. In reality, becoming mindful is about learning to live more in the present and being aware of yourself and current experience. Mindfulness teaches us to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings without identifying with them.
Dr. Patricia Rockman of The Centre for Mindfulness Studies says that mindfulness grants people “access to a different perspective, helps them open to other possibilities, and enhances resilience and their capacity to tolerate distress.”
Is mindfulness a cure-all for mental illness? Of course not, but being mindful is one way to reduce stress and resist falling prey to many of the negative emotions and thoughts that weigh us down throughout the day. Most therapists incorporate a variety of techniques in their treatment plans to address the complexities of mental illness, and mindfulness has been demonstrated to prevent depressive episodes and reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The widespread application of mindfulness is still being explored, but you can start learning how to be more mindful right now with sites like Tiny Buddha, Mind Body Green and Mindful.
Change Your Diet
We’ve all heard about how important it is to eat a balanced diet, but what does that mean? You should consider your nutrition like puzzle pieces. Different vitamins and minerals have to come together in order to complete a picture, which is your physical well-being. Did you know what you eat also plays a role in how you feel?
A well-balanced diet includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates like whole grains, and lean proteins. Eating too many fried foods, white bread and rice, trans fats and refined sugars can make us feel lethargic and depressed.
Processed snacks and fast food don’t provide the nutrients and vitamins we need to look and feel healthy, so they should be eaten only in moderation. Vitamin deficiencies can cause a variety of physical ailments as well as a low-mood, depressive symptoms and anxiety. Finding ways to incorporate plenty of vitamins D and B into your diet can help combat these side effects. Natural sources include salmon, tuna, spinach, and kale. A healthy salad can pack plenty of vitamins in each bite and deliver your daily dose of wellness.
In the new year, head to the grocery store to stock up on produce and wholesome foods so that you can start the year off by nourishing your body the best you can.
An addicted individual is someone who particularly struggles with self-care. Drugs and alcohol often start off as a way to self-medicate and reduce the feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness, and low self-esteem. However, over time, people find themselves caught in an endless cycle.
Many people fail to take time for themselves due to work obligations, family and other responsibilities. However, a lack of reprieve and adequate rest can cause our stress levels to rise and worsen the feelings of anxiety and depression. You don’t have to completely neglect your loved ones in order to practice self-care.
You may find that the little things go a long way when it comes to caring for yourself. Think of the small gestures others have done for you that made you feel loved and appreciated. Enjoying your coffee in solitude each morning, going for a jog to clear your thoughts or drawing up a hot bubble bath with essential oils are all easy, simple acts of self-care that can do wonders for your mental health.
Self-care is also important because it teaches us that we’re valuable, too. It’s natural for all of us to look outward and focus on everyone else’s thoughts and feelings, but we need to pay close attention to our own minds. Have you ever asked yourself, “How are you?” It may feel strange, but you could be shocked at how much you really have going on beneath the surface.
How Will You Move Forward?
Everyone needs to heal in some way or another, and 2019 is your chance to do just that. No matter what you struggle with, there is a way to get help and work toward recovery. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself and follow it up with a list of everything you’d like to change. You might find that they’re imbalanced, but that’s OK. As you move into the new year, it’s time to understand that you always have a choice. Seeking treatment and help from others is one way of taking control over your life.
The new year is a chance to confront everything that has held us back in the past and develop a more hopeful outlook on life. Make 2019 the year of recovery one day at a time.