New Year's Resolutions for your Mental Health
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
The new year is often a time of increased self-reflection about how we would like things to be different over the coming year. With a fresh year looming, many of us identify new goals, resolutions, and changes which we would like to accomplish over the coming months in order to feel better about ourselves and our lives.
I’d like to share a few ways you can attend to your mental health and perhaps develop some resolutions which will help improve how you feel about yourself from within, with the hope of bringing increased peace, happiness, and clarity to your life.
Decrease negative self-talk - So many of us walk around harboring harsh and critical thoughts about ourselves, and are often unaware that we are engaging in these painful and limiting thinking patterns. In many ways, we can be our own worst enemies and much harder on ourselves than we would be to our friends and loved ones. In order to decrease your negative thought patterns, you first need to become aware that this is happening in the first place. The next time you find yourself feeling insecure, hopeless, or unworthy, I encourage you to ask yourself what thoughts you are experiencing in the moment. Pay close attention to these thoughts and then ask yourself how you can challenge any negative self-talk you are experiencing. What evidence exists in your life to challenge your negative beliefs about yourself? What could be some alternative, more compassionate ways to reframe your thoughts? Noticing you’re engaging in some negative self-talk is also an opportunity to engage in some grounding or mindfulness techniques in order to create some distance between yourself and your negative thoughts.
Make friends with your emotions - The negative judgments we place on ourselves for feeling certain emotions can be a major source of suffering for many of us. We judge ourselves for feeling angry or sad or lonely, telling ourselves we “shouldn’t” feel any negative emotions and that there’s something wrong with us for feeling certain feelings. It can help tremendously to become curious observers of our emotions, and rather than judge ourselves for feeling what we do, try to understand what our emotions are telling us about changes we may need to make in our lives. By viewing our emotions from this perspective, we can begin reducing our negative judgments about how we feel and begin creating the necessary changes that could help us feel better about ourselves.
Set boundaries - It can be so hard to set boundaries with others in our lives. We often fear how others will react if we set limits with them. We worry that our friends or loved ones will cut us out of their lives, get angry with us, or criticize us for setting a boundary. As a result, you may find that you are overextending yourself, compromising your values, or doing things you don’t enjoy for fear of how you may disappoint others. You may find you are putting yourself last on your list of priorities and not attending to your needs. I want to encourage you to identify a couple of boundaries that you would like to set, and begin practicing ways to set these boundaries. A resolution around boundaries can look like saying “no” to events you don’t want to attend or to activities that compromise your values. It can also look like asking for what you need from others more often.
Accumulate positives - In the coming year, I encourage you to identify things you love doing but perhaps have fallen by the wayside. What are some fun, enjoyable things you can bring back into your life? What are the roadblocks keeping you from doing those things right now and how can you remove them? Also, it’s important to be present and mindful when pleasant things are happening. So often, our worries, self-judgments, and criticisms cloud our ability to actually be in the present moment when something pleasant is actually happening. Which gets us to the following topic...
Notice your negative filter - In CBT, a “negative filter” is a limited thinking pattern in which we filter out any positive or pleasant things that have taken place. We may only notice when others are rude or cruel, but not internalize when people engage in generous, kind deeds. We may only notice the details and behaviors that annoy us about our partners, and not pay attention to or acknowledge their thoughtful deeds and actions. This way of thinking can take a serious toll on your mental health, relationships, and outlook on life. In the new year, I invite you to start paying attention to positive events that take place or loving behaviors others extend towards us or others. Becoming mindful of these positive occurrences can greatly diminish feelings of anger, bitterness, and cynicism.
Stop discounting positives - By the same token, we may also diminish or minimize any positive accomplishments of our own as a fluke, happenstance, or sheer luck. In CBT, this is referred to as “discounting positives.” If you find yourself receiving a compliment and then saying to yourself, “they’re just being polite - they don’t really mean that,” then you are discounting another person’s positive perception of you. If you receive an award or accolade and find yourself stating, “what were they thinking when they chose me?” then you are discounting positives yet again. When we discount positives, we don’t give ourselves credit for our talents, efforts, and accomplishments, which can severely impact our self-esteem and sense of self-worth. I encourage you to begin noticing and taking credit for your positive qualities and accomplishments, and see how this changes the way you feel about yourself for the better.
Stop comparing - A major thief of happiness and peace is our tendency to compare ourselves to others. You may be doing this if you find yourself saying, “She’s got her life together and I’m such a mess,” “They have the perfect relationship and mine is hopeless,” “They don’t seem to have any problems and my life is so hard.” These sorts of comparisons are guaranteed to make you feel badly about yourself and increase feelings of inadequacy. When you notice yourself comparing yourself to others, gently remind yourself that you are viewing a tiny snippet of that person’s life, and that that snippet in no way can reveal another person’s struggles or challenges. Many clients quickly notice a feeling of relief once they stop comparing their insides to other people’s outsides.
I hope these suggestions pave the way for some resolutions that can support your mental health and well-being in the coming year. Wishing you a new year that brings you greater happiness, peace, compassion, and love for yourself.