After the holiday hustle and bustle, we find ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year. For many, 2021 is ushering in hope for a happier and perhaps quieter year than the previous. But for some, these cold winter months can be a challenge. A few local mental health professionals have offered these simple ways to start the year off right and find joy as we wait for those warmer days to come back around.
Centerpointe Hospital offers these tips:
Do Something You Love Every Day.
Even if it’s just for a few minutes each day, make time for yourself. Read, go for a walk, have a conversation with someone that you care about or engage in some activity that you enjoy. Hobbies and enjoyable activities can bring you a sense of peace and help you recharge your emotional batteries.
Be kind to yourself.
Speak nicely about yourself and treat yourself with respect. A positive outlook on ourselves is a key to attracting more positivity into our lives. Write positive affirmations about yourself such as, “I love myself just the way I am” and tape them to your mirror so you can be reminded of your positive attributes morning and night.
Remind yourself daily that, as a human, you will make mistakes or miss goals and that’s okay. Learn from your mistakes, identify the triggers prior to the setback and practice new skills to deal with difficult situations. Journaling is often helpful in identifying moods and trends in your behavior. What’s important is going forward in these situations in a positive manner. Don’t give up!
Stay mindful and in the moment .
Don’t dwell too much on the past or spend time fixating on the future. Remember to live in the here and now and enjoy all that life has to offer. Meditation practitioners can experience greater connection with the present and gradually become more aware of their emotions, which contributes to heightened emotional intelligence and allows the individual to operate from a more authentic and peaceful place.
Take care of your physical health.
Scientists have discovered an important link between gut health and mental health. It is thought that reducing inflammation in the digestive tract can help your body produce more serotonin, which plays a role in mood, appetite, and sleep. There is also a link between exercise and mental health. Exercise increases blood flow in the brain and that, in turn, boosts both production and availability of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The more neurotransmitters we have, the better we feel. Exercise is also one of the quickest ways to relieve stress.
Seek psychological help.
There’s no shame in seeing a mental health professional. And, if you have symptoms of depression or anxiety, there’s no reason to suffer in silence; there are good treatments available. Cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, can help you think about things in a new and more helpful way. Depression and anxiety do not go away on their own. So, whether you prefer to see a psychiatrist or a counselor, talk to someone about what you’re experiencing.
Katie Francis, a Licensed Professional Counselor at CarePoint Christian Counseling (Katief@carepointcounseling.com) offers this advice:
While many people may abandon New Year’s resolutions early on, setting goals can be a great way to keep yourself moving forward during the difficult winter months. Instead of big, sometimes overwhelming goals, break them down into smaller, more manageable parts, such as quarterly, monthly, or even weekly “to do’s.” You can evaluate progress more regularly and shift focus as needed
If you find yourself faltering on your goals, enlist the help of an accountability partner; a family member, friend, co-worker, counselor, or support group. Having an accountability partner makes it harder to forego the work it takes to reach your goals. It’s much harder to skip the gym when you have a friend waiting there for you. Make sure this person can provide a good balance of empathy and encouragement, while holding you to the standards you’ve set for yourself.
Give Yourself Things to Look Forward To.
It can be challenging to keep your spirits up when it’s cold outside, dark by 5pm, and many people are mostly staying home due to the pandemic. To help create excitement and boost your mood, find things to look forward to. Plan a fun movie night, buy yourself that new book you’ve been wanting to read and schedule in time to read it, or simply make plans to do things that bring you joy...put them on your calendar!
Find Ways to Relieve Stress.
Having adequate, doable, and regular ways to relieve stress can make all the difference in fighting winter gloominess.Having a consistent sleep schedule, getting exercise, having a friend to talk to, finding an enjoyable hobby, and finding time to just be still can help. There are even helpful apps that you can get focusing on mindfulness and stress relief.