It’s that time of the year, the ball has dropped and people around the country are announcing their New Year resolutions.
As if getting through the holidays wasn’t stressful enough, now comes the difficult and sometimes-impossible challenges people layout for themselves, all in the name of self-improvement.
The true beneficiary of all those resolutions tends to be diet-book publishers, gym franchise chains, yoga and Pilates studios, along with a myriad other healthy lifestyle pay-to-play options.
“By the second week of February,” according to U.S. News & World Report, “some 80 percent of those resolution-ers are back at home with a new kind of remorse staring back at them in the mirror – the remorse of disappointment.”
Setting a New Year’s Intention is more nuanced than the black and white, pass or fail of a resolution. It allows for breathing room, for a change of course if something doesn’t feel right.
An intention is a guide to exploring choices and behaviors that can fulfill our desire to feel better, live healthier and have the peace of mind we might not have had in the previous year.
Starting small is key. So, for the month of January, the intention is to focus on mental wellness.
Here Are 10 Intentions for the New Year to Improve Mental Health:
1. Travel More
Explore places in your immediate surroundings that you haven’t been to: museums, parks, the library or any points of interest.
Take public transportation if it’s available and you haven’t used it before.
Traveling isn’t just going to the far corners of the world – there’s plenty of new places to explore near home.
2. Learn Something New
See if any local colleges or educational centers offer classes in something that interests you, like photography, cooking, welding, woodwork, painting, writing – something you’ve always thought about doing and you’re passionate about.
Learning new things is good for the mind and increases the density of myelin in the brain, the white matter that improves performance and cognitive abilities.
3. Make New Choices
If your regular habit is to watch television in the evening, maybe one night a week read a book or go for a walk instead.
Find ways to depart from your normal routine in a positive way and stretch your mind or give it a relaxing break.
4. Stay Active
Building in 30 minutes to an hour of exercise that works up a sweat every day does wonders for mental wellness.
Even if it’s just a brisk walk in the evening, staying active is a key component for happiness as it heals both the mind and the body.
5. Eat Better
Instead of vowing to change every aspect of your diet, try removing something unhealthy in January and replacing it with a healthier option.
Make sure to pay attention to how the switch makes you feel physically and emotionally.
If one small change adds a noticeable difference in the way you feel, it might instill positive motivation to make more changes without replacing your entire diet all at once.
Find one or two opportunities in the month of January to volunteer somewhere…anywhere. Helping others is a great way to put perspective on our own issues and stresses.
Studies have shown that volunteering provides a sense of purpose and increases self-esteem and confidence while decreasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression.
7. Set a Bedtime and Stick To It
Try to follow a sleep routine for a few weeks, where you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Sleep is considered one of the three pillars of health along with proper diet and exercise.
Building healthy sleep habits in addition to getting the proper amount of sleep each night refreshes both the body and the mind.
8. Keep a Clean Environment
Whether at home or work, a messy environment adds to mental noise and feelings of chaos. An orderly, clean home or desk is far more serene, comfortable and productive.
The Eastern philosophy of Feng Shui has shown to decrease stress and illness, improve sleep, and increase focus and concentration.
9. Spend Time With People Important to You
Being in the company of friends or family that inspire us, make us laugh or simply lend a listening ear to our concerns and troubles is vital.
Instead of isolation, work to spend time around people that impact you in positive ways, invite them over for dinner, out to a movie, or meet somewhere relaxing for a cup of tea or coffee.
10. Go Easy on Yourself
Changing our habits, outlooks and feelings doesn’t come in a day.
If you find that you’re criticizing yourself for one thing or another, let yourself off the hook and pat yourself on the back for understanding that you are your own best advocate.
Remember, intentions can be fluid. If an intention didn’t provide the hoped for result in January, set a new intention for February.
The point is that life is not about a pass or fail resolution. Any path to self-improvement takes mistakes, time and intention.