The start of a new year is a natural time to take stock of our lives and decide to make positive changes going forward. Often these insights lead us to set New Year’s resolutions around the goals we’d like to achieve: Lose weight. Exercise more. Eat healthier food. Save more money.
While physical health and finances are typical topics of such resolutions, after the turmoil of the last few years, more people recognize mental health and wellbeing as a priority in the upcoming year. According to a Forbes Health / One Poll survey conducted in November 2022, 45% of respondents cited an improvement in mental health as one of their top New Year’s resolutions.
Just as familiar as setting New Year’s resolutions, however, is the idea that most of those resolutions are doomed to fail. That may make you hesitate to set a goal, but it isn’t entirely accurate. Readiness to change is vital to the success of any resolution, so if you find yourself inspired to do things differently in 2023, you’ve already made a significant step in the right direction. You can also improve your odds by considering how you make your mental health resolutions for the new year. Here are some tips to help set yourself up for success.
How You Set Your Goals Matters
Before you choose what aspect of your mental health you want to focus on, it helps to consider that how you set your resolution up can influence its likelihood of success. First, choose realistic goals. Small, sustainable actions that can be maintained over the long term are more likely to lead to lasting change than trying to make dramatic alterations all at once.
Try to set specific goals with concrete steps. While setting a vague goal can feel more flexible, it can also make it difficult to assess whether you’re making progress or to feel like you’re doing enough. For example, if you want to practice gratitude, your goal could be jotting down one or two things you feel grateful for in a journal at the same time each day. Keeping the action simple and attainable will help you build and maintain positive habits.
Most importantly, you should approach your goals with the knowledge that setbacks will happen. Perfection is not necessary to make progress—to use the example above, if you missed a day (or three) of journaling because work was overwhelming, the answer is to pick up again when you can, not quit.
New Year Mental Health Tips
It’s one thing to know that you want to improve your mental health in the new year, but another to know where to start. Some simple suggestions to try include:
Paying attention to the way you talk to yourself. People can develop a tendency to judge themselves harshly. Listen to the things you tell yourself internally—would you talk to a friend that way? If not, try to replace negative thoughts with more kind, forgiving words.
Limiting screen time. With current news and social media always at our fingertips, it can be hard to limit exposure even when it stresses us out. However, putting your phone and computer away, especially before bedtime, is essential for allowing ourselves to decompress from consuming a steady diet of bad news or comparing ourselves unfairly to other people’s highly curated versions of their lives.
Taking care of your body. Mental and physical health are linked, so making positive changes for your physical wellbeing can help improve your state of mind. This can be as simple as going for a short walk each day, going to bed a half hour earlier to get more sleep, or adding a serving of fruit or vegetables to your diet.
Reaching out to a mental health professional. If you’re suffering from anxiety and depression, your own efforts to boost your mental health in the past haven’t been successful, or you’re just feeling stuck, the right therapist can be a catalyst for positive change. You don’t have to wait until things feel out of control to benefit from an impartial listener who can give you a new perspective and techniques to promote better mental health.
Individualized, Convenient Therapy
At the San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center, we know that anxiety and stress impact every facet of your life. We offer accessible therapy in person or online to fit your busy lifestyle. Our evidence-based treatment helps you meet your goals with research-tested, structured, proven interventions. If you’re ready to make your New Year’s resolution for better mental health stick, schedule a free introductory phone consultation with an SF Stress Care Coordinator to get started.