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New Year's resolutions for mental health

Piece of paper with the word resolutions written on it.

According to Google’s English Dictionary, the word “resolution” means a firm decision to do or not do something. So many of us feel that the beginning of a new year is a great time to set resolutions or goals to work on, but how successful are we? A recent study on New Year’s resolutions found that about 40% of Americans set resolutions at the start of the year, and less than half are successful after six months. We start out with the best of intentions, but how can we make the changes last?

One big strategy is to be realistic when making resolutions. For example, saying you will lose a large amount of weight within the year may be unrealistic depending on the amount of weight, your previous history with sticking with weight loss methods, and what your plan for losing that weight is.  Resolutions are more achievable by taking small, more achievable steps towards your goals, and not expecting too much too soon.

This applies to all kinds of resolutions, including mental health. Good mental health may not be something that you think about as a New Year’s resolution, but is just as important as resolutions for physical health. The National Council for Mental Wellbeing recently shared some great self-care strategies from their Mental Health First Aid curriculum to set realistic New Year’s resolutions for your mental health. They include:

  1. Make time for self-care. Brainstorm a list of self-care activities that make you happy and schedule them as part of your daily routine. This could be structured therapy sessions or daily exercise or simply an outdoor walk or time with loved ones. If you’re not sure how to fit self-care into your busy routine, read this article for more tips.
  2. Be kind to yourself. Change can be hard and often takes time. Allow yourself to have feelings and forgive yourself for mistakes. You are here and doing your best, and that’s what counts.
  3. Make sleep a priority. Studies have found that sleep and mental health are connected. In fact, approximately 65 to 90% of people with major depression also experience a sleep problem. This year, try to go to sleep a little bit earlier every night and give your body the rest it needs.
  4. Limit your screen time. Spending too much time on your phone or computer can impact your quality of sleep, your relationships and even lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Be conscious of how much time you’re spending online and the impact it has on your mental health and make adjustments, if needed. When it comes to social media, use these tips to use the platforms in a positive way.
  5. Learn more about mental health. One of the best ways to improve your mental health is to understand it. There are online resources available that provide information about common mental health and substance use conditions or you can talk to a medical professional to learn more about your specific situation. You can also take a Mental Health First Aid course. MHFA teaches people how to understand, identify and respond to signs and symptoms of common mental health and substance use challenges. You may find a course being taught in your area, or there is a virtual class coming up on Thursday, February 22, 2024 from 9:00 – 4:00 CST. There are two hours online pre-work before the actual class on February 22. Click here to register by February 1. This class is taught by University of Illinois Extension staff.

Instead of making sweeping New Year’s resolutions to achieve overnight, create a few realistic goals that will have a long-lasting impact on your mental health and happiness. You can #BeTheDifference for yourself this year and MHFA is here to help you every step of the way.

Source:  Mental Health First Aid USA, January 2020

Author:  Cheri Burcham is responsible for family life programming in the counties of Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Moultrie, Shelby and other parts of east central Illinois as needed. Cheri’s emphasis is on healthy lifestyles throughout the life span which include family relationships, communication, caregiving, stress management and human development including early childhood and healthy aging. Her passion is to help people to be their best selves and to promote a healthier, independent older population. When Cheri is not engaged in Extension work, she can be found raising Monarch butterflies and spreading the word about their amazing life cycles and migration to anyone who will listen!