With the start of each new year, people commonly vow to improve their physical health, including diet, nutrition and exercise. While this is a vital measure to take, it is equally important to resolve to improve one’s mental and emotional heath as well.
A healthy mind is fundamental to a person’s overall well-being, regardless of age. Our mental state affects how we think, feel and act. Mentally healthy people are better positioned to:
- Realize their full potential
- Cope with the stresses of life
- Work productively at school or on the job
- Relate positively to others
- Make good decisions
- Make meaningful contributions to their communities
In this new year, here are 10 things you (teens and adults) can do for your mental health (shared by The University of Michigan – Student Life University Health Service, adapted from the National Mental Health Association/National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare):
Value Yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and respect and avoid self-criticism. Make time for things you enjoy.
Take Care of Your Body: Eat more nutritiously, drink more water, exercise, get plenty of sleep and avoid tobacco.
Surround Yourself with Positive People: Happiness is contagious, so is negativity – which will only bring you down. Keep company with people who choose to laugh more than they complain and focus on the positives in life.
Give of Yourself: Seek out volunteer opportunities at churches and/or organizations that interest you, or simply take advantage of the endless opportunities to help family, friends and neighbors. It is uplifting to help others.
Learn How to Deal with Stress: Stress is a normal part of life and the sooner one learns how to cope with it in a positive way, the better. Different things work for different people but, in general, some common stress reducers include physical exercise, deep breathing exercises, visualization, journaling, playing with a pet or taking a good old-fashioned walk outside.
Quiet Your Mind: Meditation, prayer and mindfulness are known to help people feel calm and relaxed, and can improve one’s outlook on life.
Set Realistic Goals: Decide what you want to achieve in school, work or your personal life and write it down. Then, plan the steps needed to make those goals a reality. Aim high, but be realistic and don’t overschedule yourself.
Break Up the Monotony: Routines are good, but a change of pace now and then is even better. Take a walk in a different park, shoot some hoops instead of doing your daily run, come up with a different spot to hang with friends, try a new food or restaurant and so forth.
Avoid Alcohol and Other Drugs: For youth, this is a given. Alcohol is illegal for those under 21 and a danger in many ways. For some adults, alcohol in moderation is okay. While some people turn to alcohol and other drugs to self-medicate, the opposite is likely to occur as self-medicating will only make the situation worse.
Get Help When Needed: Seeking help is a sign of strength – not weakness. People who get appropriate care can and do recover from mental illness and addiction and lead happy, healthy, productive and rewarding lives.
It’s a new year—a clean slate, a chance for new beginnings, and a time to push away the negatives, focus your energy on the positives, improve your mental and emotional health, and find balance in life.
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Sources: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services-MentalHealth.gov: What is Mental Health? Aug. 29, 2017. University of Michigan – Student Life University Health Service, adapted from the National Mental Health Association/National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare: Ten Things You Can Do for Your Mental Health.