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Year ender 2022: thumbs up to these mental health resolutions

Year ender 2022: thumbs up to these mental health resolutions

Happiest Health speaks to experts about what should be included in one's mental health resolutions
new year mental health resolutions
Representational image | Shutterstock

As one gets ready to bid adieu to 2022 and usher in 2023, it is time to put the lessons we learnt this year into action. The pandemic has shown how physical ailments affect mental health. Happiest Health looks at these learnings and paints a picture of what to include in our mental health resolutions for the year ahead.

Therapy? Let’s go

The 2021 Google search trends recorded the highest number of searches on how to maintain one’s mental health compared to previous years. Furthermore, a simple glance at        Google trends reveals that there has been a steady increase in the number of times people have searched the term ‘psychologist’ in the past five years.

This suggests that the perception of therapy being an option only when something is wrong is slowly shifting. People now seek therapy to enhance their well-being and to introspect, as well.

Reaching out to people for help and going in for therapy, if needed, are important for one’s wellbeing. “I think deciding to go for therapy was the best decision I made this year,” says Delhi-based lawyer Shagun Bhargava (24). Thanks to therapy, she became more self-aware and was able to communicate her feelings well.  “It has helped me build a better relationship with myself and my loved ones.”

Setting boundaries (especially when it is hard)

Setting boundaries is not easy, and we do not always know how to go about it. We often find ourselves agreeing to do things we do not want to.

What does it mean to set boundaries? Why is it so hard? And what is the first step to setting one? Setting boundaries can be hard for us raised as we are in a collectivist culture that puts others before us, says Pune-based counselling psychologist Sucheta Baidya. As a result we tend to invalidate our own feelings.

The first step in setting a boundary is to simply notice our experience of discomfort in a particular situation. “It is important to acknowledge our feelings and to validate them. The discomfort we experience when we have to say ‘No’, is valid,” says Baidya. The next step is to communicate this boundary politely but assertively. “It is definitely not easy, and requires practice. But it is important nonetheless,” she says.

Physical activity: resolution for better physical health leads to better mental health

A 2021 study in Serbia led by researcher Aleksandar Stojmenović concluded that physical activity and exercise can lower mortality in psychiatric populations, ease depression-related symptoms, enhance self-concept and self-esteem, lessen symptoms of anxiety, and enhance mood. It also showed that physical activity is significantly correlated to better mental health.

We reached out to Devika Shah, who by virtue of being both a trained counselling psychologist and a professional dancer is in a unique position to offer her insights on the topic “Movement has been magical, and my strongest feature in portraying my personality. It has also helped me exude my emotions powerfully.” Dancing, she says, has helped her get through a tough period in her life.

Food, exercise, and sleep are three main aspects that impact mental health. One’s resolution list for the New Year must include eating clean, exercising, and getting adequate as well as quality sleep. Gurgaon-based life coach executive presence and leadership coach Samira Gupta says, “The type of food we eat has an impact on our mood. If we eat a lot of sugar, insulin (a hormone which controls blood sugar levels) is released, which triggers the secretion of cortisol (stress hormone).”

Keep the inner child alive by picking up those hobbies again

“An adult’s life is full of tasks and chores; be it at college or office or at home. Picking up hobbies that one liked in childhood or even new ones can bring happiness and enjoyment in one’s life,” says Gupta. Any hobby that provides peace of mind and happiness is good like – painting, cooking, writing, knitting, solving puzzles, reading, gardening, cycling, playing music, learning, and pottery.

Instead of acquiring, let go

This year try something different; certain habits and mindsets can be bad for one’s mental health. Hence, instead of making new goals let go of old habits. “Belief systems and thought processes can have a major impact on us; negative thoughts can be problematic. Let go of anger, tardiness, jealousy, gossiping, laziness, judgemental attitude, and negative self-talk,” says Gupta.

Less screen time, more you

A literary review suggests that increased screen time is a cause of declining physical and psychological health. The review demonstrates that an increase in screen time leads to decline in physical and mental health, sleep disturbances, poor stress regulation, negative thought patterns and lower life fulfilment.

“I spend so much of my time scrolling through my phone, that my hobbies end up taking a back seat,” says Shreyasi Sadani (24), a buddying mental health therapist from Bengaluru. With technology becoming an indispensable part of our lives, it is becoming hard to look away from our screens.

While scrolling through social media may seem like an activity to unwind, it takes up so much of our time and energy that we end up feeling more exhausted than before. Our limited quota of emotional energy is expended, which makes us less likely to engage in our interests and hobbies. For Sadani, 2023 is about consciously spending time away from her screen. “So, I can slow down and make time for engaging in drawing and painting, which is really meaningful for me.”

Food – nourishment for the body and the mind

We cannot end this year without talking about what food means to us. We know that our food affects how we feel and changes not only our body, but also our mind. Most of us have a deep emotional connection with food. Research in the nutritional psychology space confirms what we might have intuitively known – our food affects how we feel. Food can make us less stressed, help us think clearly, reduce irritability and even uplift our mood.

Read our earlier story to know more about diet and mood.

The secret to following through with your resolution

A page of resolutions have been set, and one is full of energy and willpower. ‘This will be the year I will achieve all my goals,’ says the voice in one’s head. But as January comes to an end, the paper ends up in a stack with other papers; as February progresses the paper full of goals and resolutions sits on the shelf dusting away. Kerala-based self-belief and habit coach, Nishitha Maharoof, says, “Despite setting resolutions we tend to fall into this unpleasant cycle of delaying them to next year. Understanding the reason behind each resolution is the first step to sticking through them.” We must ask ourselves: what does this resolution mean to me? By connecting the reason with the resolution, we have a better chance of fulfilling it.

 Vagueness is the foe of all resolutions

“I want to lose weight this year; I want to become rich; or I want to save money; resolutions like these have a high chance of failing,” says Maharoof. When one sets a goal, one must be precise and follow it with an action plan. “If persons make a resolution such as ‘I want to spend less time on social media’, they must also write down the reason behind it; why followed by a how. Once the intention and action behind a goal are clear, it becomes easier to follow,” explains Maharoof.

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