Do you remember the last time you stopped and asked yourself – am I feeling alright mentally, am I happy or am I too stressed? Most of us make New Year resolutions about finally hitting the gym, losing xyz kilos or going for that long pending daily walk – all very important for our physical health. But, how many of us decide to make our mental health a priority?
As per research by the World Health Organisation, one in five Indians will suffer from some kind of mental health issues by 2020, with depression being one of the biggest causes. However, the stigma associated with mental health problems makes it difficult to come out and say that there is an issue, mentally. And when we do, it is also often too late.
So, this year, let us resolve to make our mental health as much a priority as our physical health. Here are 10 ways in which you can focus on your mental health:
We love our family and friends and try to spread love around us. But, how often do we think about loving ourselves? We expect ourselves to be perfect in everything we do – in our work, our personal lives, how we fare as parents. And, when we do not perform as per our expectations, we end up blaming ourselves. However, rather than being negative about ourselves and our abilities, we need to be positive about all that we are good at. A study quoted in the New York Times reveals that people who practice self-compassion are less at a risk of developing depression. Another study published in the journal Scientific American, reveals that those who practice self-compassion, see their troubles as part of their human condition, and avoid harsh critiques or negative generalisations. Image by Image credit: John Hain from Pixabay It is easy to lament about everything that goes wrong. However, by looking around at your gains rather than losses, and by being grateful for all those that give you joy, no matter how small they are, you will be able to see increased levels of happiness. There are many ways to practice gratitude in your daily lives - you can keep a journal where you write about five things that you are grateful about. You can also send little letters, mails or messages thanking those who you are grateful to. Apart from writing down what you are grateful for, you can also visualise them – keep your eyes closed and think about 5-10 things that you are grateful for every day. The positivity you get out of this will rewire your mind into a happier one. Image by Image credit: June Laves from Pixabay Go on walks, go hiking, or just exercise in the outdoors. Apart from getting some much-needed Vitamin D, exercising also helps release endorphins – the feel good chemical that gives you a mental boost. The added bonus is that any extra minute spent in nature will prove to be a stress releaser. You can also plan more vacations: studies have proven that just the thought of going for one has the potential to lift one’s mood. Image by Image credit: Mabel Amber, still incognito... from Pixabay What with smartphones, laptops, tablets and other digital devices around us, we are always plugged in. However, numerous studies have shown that people who are constantly on social media have lesser levels of satisfaction in life. And that is why it is so important to go on a complete digital detox ever so often. This helps reduce stress, and aids in focusing your attention on other people and things around you. Start off with a day or two – go on a trip without your phone and laptop, spend a Sunday with your family, away from the distraction of the screen, read more books and also ensure that certain areas of your house are off limits for devices. Image by Image credit: Thomas Breher from Pixabay We underestimate the value of sleep and the impact a lack of it has on our mental and physical wellbeing. According to studies, people who are sleep deprived are four times more likely to develop depression within three years. Hence, this New Year, resolve to get your required 7-8 hours of sleep a night. And, it is also not just about getting in those hours - aim to improve your quality of sleep by following a set sleep routine and going to sleep earlier every day. Practise sleep hygiene - shut down your screens atleast an hour before going to sleep, restrict caffeine after 4 pm and cut down on that night cap. You can also do some light breathing exercises to help calm down and get into sleep mode. Most of the times, we are so caught up in the rat race, that we do not bother to sit back and try to understand our selves. Meditation, thus, gives us those moments to recognise who we are and understand the emotions we go through, thereby helping us control them better. Mindfulness meditation is known to reduce levels of cortisol, the hormone released during stress. Regular meditation helps control emotions and enables the practitioner to better deal with stressful situations, and enables relaxation. And it does not require much time, effort or any investment: just 20 minutes of meditation every morning will calm you down so that you can face the new day with a positive frame of mind. Image by Image credit: Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay While it may be difficult to completely quit alcohol and smoking at a go, atleast ensure that you cut down your intake this New York. If you go out with your friends and drink socially every day, politely say no to them. Find activities that will keep you busy and put your mind off smoking and drinking. This is especially important during weekends and off days. Play a game instead, read a book, talk to friends or colleagues, go for a walk, listen to some music, or get a hobby. Image by Image credit: Sam Jotham Sutharson from Pixabay Do not overburden yourself with too much – whether professional or personal work. It helps to take a break and spend some time alone doing what you enjoy. Say ‘no’ if things go overboard at work or with your friends and prioritise yourself over everything else. Image by Image credit: Kevin Phillips from Pixabay Maintaining strong interpersonal bonds with family and friends will help you feel accepted, comforted and happier. Take time out to visit or atleast call a family member or friend every day. This is even more important if you are feeling low. Remember, sharing your feelings is not a sign of weakness, and doing so will help make you a much stronger person. : Image by Image credit florentiabuckingham from Pixabay Along with all the above tips, ensure that you do not wait for things to get out of hand if you feel troubled. Talk to someone you trust and seek professional help. Mental health professionals will be able to decide on the course of action, provide you with support and treatment that will put you on the path to recovery. Image by Image credit: skeeze from Pixabay