As the new year begins, it is natural to set goals to make positive changes in our lives. Interestingly, studies have shown that people, especially young adults, are increasingly focused on improved mental health.
For instance, a 2021 survey by the American Psychiatry Association (APA) found that 42 per cent of young American adults (18-34 years) and 34 per cent of adults (34-44 years) prioritised mental health as their New Year’s goal, while 26 per cent overall listed it as their top priority. Physical fitness and financial fitness were also popular goals, with 42 per cent and 36 per cent of respondents citing them, respectively.
Another APA poll conducted in December 2022 found that 40 per cent of American adults were concerned about their mental health, and 29 per cent planned to make a New Year’s resolution related to their mental health. This number increased to 50 per cent among young adults aged 18-34.
A similar trend is noted by Bengaluru-based fitness coach Kirthi R, who is the owner of Evolution fitness centres. “We have witnessed a surge in enrolment for gym membership year-end, but particularly after the pandemic, most people are opting for yoga and mindfulness activities along with strength training.”
In 2022, Bhavani Reddy (28), a fashion designer from Hyderabad, resolved to reclaim her pre-pandemic healthy lifestyle. After contending with anxiety and an inactive lifestyle during the pandemic, she planned to improve her mental and physical health through mindfulness exercises and a return to the gym.
“I made a commitment to do mindfulness exercise, yoga, and 10 minutes of meditation, and saw positive results in just a few weeks,” says Reddy. It took time to get back into shape, but the progress she made in strengthening her mental well-being through mindfulness and meditation motivated her to follow through and be consistent.
Mental health: an essential aspect of one’s overall well-being
Anjali Arora, a Delhi-based mental health counsellor, shares the importance of mental health.
- Physical health: Poor mental health can have negative effects on physical health, and vice versa. For example, stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system and increase one’s susceptibility to illness.
- Relationships: Good mental health can help to foster healthy, supportive relationships, while poor mental health can strain relationships and lead to social isolation.
- Productivity: Mental health can impact an individual’s ability to concentrate, make decisions, and be productive in their personal and professional lives.
- Financial well-being: Mental health issues can lead to absenteeism and decreased productivity, which can negatively affect an individual’s financial well-being.
- Quality of life: Good mental health, which is closely tied to overall quality of life, can help individuals enjoy activities, pursue their goals and dreams, and find meaning and purpose in life.
Benefits aplenty to give your mental health a thumbs-up
Ramji Srinivasan, former strength and conditioning coach of the Indian cricket team, urges people to strengthen their mental fortitude. “If you are psychologically fit, you can push your physical fitness. But if you are physically fit and psychologically not, you cannot do so. And, you’ll never know your true capabilities.”
Mindfulness: a simple step to get there
Mindfulness meditation involves bringing one’s attention to the present moment in a non-judgemental way. It can be an effective tool to manage stress and improve mental well-being, especially for young people who may be facing challenges.
In the 2021 and 2022 APA surveys, many adults made mental health resolutions to meditate, take breaks from social media, and focus on spirituality.
- In 2021, 32 per cent prioritised meditation over professional help.
- In 2022, 45 per cent made mental health resolutions, with 37 per cent focusing on spirituality.
Arora says that mindfulness can help to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as improve focus and concentration. These are some of the reasons why youngsters and adults choose mindfulness practices.
Read here on how to make SMART goals that help you to stick to your new year resolution.
There are many types of mindfulness exercises for those newly initiated to the world of inner well-being, and choosing the right one depends on personal preferences and goals, says Aparajit Sandhu, a Chandigarh-based counselling psychologist.
Some common mindfulness exercises include:
- Breathing meditation: Focusing on the breath and bringing the mind back to the present moment whenever it wanders.
- Body scan: Lying down or sitting comfortably, focusing on each part of the body in turn and noticing any sensations or emotions that arise.
- Walking meditation: Paying attention to the sensations of walking, such as the feel of the ground beneath our feet and the movement of the body.
- Gratitude journaling: Taking time each day to write down what we are grateful for.
- Loving-kindness meditation: Silently repeating phrases of love and well wishes to us and others.
- Yoga: Combining physical movement, mindfulness, and breath control to improve physical and mental well-being.
- Drawing or colouring: Focusing on creating art to help us to relax the mind and bring focus to the present moment.
It is important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and can make a significant difference in improving overall well-being. When in need, talk to a mental health professional, join a support group, or simply confide in a trusted friend or family member. This can serve us well throughout our lives.
Prioritise mental health in the new year. By taking care of ourselves and seeking help when needed, we can start 2023 on a positive and healthy note, while breaking the stigma around mental health.