ARE you, or will you be, thinking about what new year resolution to make? There are many different and worthy things that you can do, both for yourself and for others, but I would suggest that firstly enhancing your own mental wellbeing should be top of the list of priorities.
Many people set unrealistic targets for themselves, and then give up quickly when they ‘fall off the wagon’. This is not the way to approach it. Instead you should think about a long-term plan, one that does not cease to be your focus if you are derailed for a period.
Set an achievable target and one that you can work on all year. Resolutions are for the whole year, not just for January! How many people have joined a gym in January and never darkened its doors after February? I am one of those who can plead guilty.
Here are some starting points and suggestions to get you going, and adopting one, two or all of these will set you on a great path for 2022.
There is a vital link between what you eat and your mental health. The vast majority of the key chemical serotonin is produced in the stomach, and this plays a role in many aspects of your life – appetite, sleep and your mood. People with depression often have low levels of serotonin. Key actions include cutting back, or cutting out, processed foods, and adding some extra pieces of fruit to your diet. Cook fresh food as often as possible.
One of the quickest ways to relieve stress is to exercise. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise, four or five times a week, will help to keep your heart in good condition and boost your mood. This is because exercise increases blood-flow to the brain, enabling more neurotransmitters to be produced. The more neurotransmitters you have, the better you will feel.
Key actions would include walking more – even around the office or at home – and using the stairs and not the lift at work. With lots more areas to cycle too in safety, the purchase of a bike could be the best investment you make.
It is impossible to stress how important good quality sleep is. Sleep deprivation leads to a failure to manage your mood, meaning that accomplishing even simple tasks becomes difficult. It is important to have downtime to refresh our bodies and minds, and to consolidate memories.
Key actions would include getting rid of electronic devices (television, mobiles and more) from your bedroom and winding down for half an hour before you go to bed. No mobile telephone or laptop within an hour of sleep. Try to get eight hours sleep at night.
If your thoughts are all over the place, it can be very helpful to carry a small notebook with you. Making to-do lists, or noting some thoughts you have, can be very useful for mental wellbeing.
Seeing what has to be done written down in front of you can help to make them manageable, and transfers them from being overwhelming thoughts in your head to a list of tasks to be completed. Ticking them off when completed is incredibly satisfying. A key action is to get in the habit of writing your thoughts down as they occur to you.
Having a plan helps to avoid emotional stress, and this plan should help you think about your priorities. This can, and should, lead to learning to say no at times. You cannot please everyone all the time – you have to think of yourself and your happiness. Expending energy on things that are unimportant means ignoring some things that are very important. This can lead to stress, conflict, anxiety and even depression. Make a list of five key priorities – personal and/or professional – and decide how you will allot time to make them happen.
We hear a lot spoken about ‘me time’, but how many of us take this time? Smartphones and portable devices means that, for many, they are never ‘off duty’. Succumbing to this bombardment of information can lead to stress, and we never have downtime as a consequence. Have you holidays at work that you didn’t take? If yes, take them. Some things you might do are spending time in meditation, listening to music or enjoying a relaxing hobby or pursuit. When did you last visit an art gallery and lose yourself in its beauty?
There is no shame in seeking professional help.
This message is so important that it needs to be stressed. Many people suffer symptoms of depression or anxiety, and this is not to be feared. Rather, it is important to seek help and support, in the first instance from someone you can trust. It is essential that you do not suffer in silence. Professionals can help you to see your problem in a different way, one that leads to a solution.
Depression and anxiety do not go away on their own. So it is imperative that you share your worry, fear or anxiety with someone, and seek medical or professional help. You would do so for a physical injury – so why not for your mental wellbeing?
Some things to remember
The greatest pleasure in life is love
The greatest treasure is contentment
The greatest possession is health
The greatest ease is sleep
The greatest medicine is a true friend