These past 52 weeks weren’t the best when it came to mental health, between the very real development of election anxiety to the tragic events that happened regularly. How could a person not live in a perpetual state of stress?
If you’re still looking for a 2017 resolution, you could do a lot worse than prioritizing your mental health. But seeing as that can feel like a lofty or ambiguous goal, it may help to break it down into smaller, more actionable steps.
That’s where these simple tips come into play. Below are just a few techniques that will help you manage overwhelming bouts of stress next year, which will effectively make you a calmer and happier human being:
1. Just breathe.
Your body already has a built-in stress fighter: Your mind and your lungs. Follow the rhythm of this graphic to get your breath in sync and find a little calm:
Added tip: In addition to focusing on your breath, try “grounding” yourself by taking stock of your surroundings and engaging your five senses. Tell yourself “I feel my feet are planted on the ground,” “I hear the television is on in the background” or whatever else you’re noticing about the present moment. This may help ease your stress.
2. Go for a walk outside at least once a week.
Exercise ― even if it’s just walking ― can affect your mental health in profound ways. But you may be missing out on a few added perks by keeping your workout indoors. Research shows taking a walk in nature can alleviate depressive symptoms and significantly increase your mood. There’s something to be said for a little sunshine with your stroll.
3. Try new experiences.
Forget retail therapy ― try adventure therapy. Studies show that spending money on experiences over material items will bring greater joy. Make 2017 the year you see your favorite band live or try zip lining. You’ll be happier for it.
4. Keep a gratitude journal.
Or any journal, for that matter. Research suggests writing down negative thoughts can help clear your mind and jotting the things you appreciate can help improve your mental well-being. Here are a few more reasons to start scribbling. (And, bonus, it’ll allow you to go back and reflect on your year come next December. You may be amazed by the progress.)
5. Give therapy a shot.
There’s nothing wrong with seeking mental health support. Experts agree that talk therapy is incredibly beneficial to sorting through and managing any negative emotions or behavioral health issues.
And if you’re feeling weary of talking to someone face to face, online services like Crisis Text Line can also be a way for you to sort out what’s going on with your psychological well-being. There’s no wrong starter method when it comes to finding professional help.
6. Take a media break.
If you’re feeling down from all the horrible news of 2016, you’re not alone. Research shows that constant exposure to negative news can have a detrimental impact on mental health. If the cycle is weighing down on you, try unplugging or cutting back your media consumption for a period of time.
7. Make a mental health playlist.
When you’re feeling anxious, just press play. Research indicates that a specific tune may reduce your anxiety by up to 65 percent, Inc. reported. Anxiety specialists clinically identified “the most relaxing song in the world,” “Weightless” by Marconi Union, based on measures like brain activity and heart rates of participants in the study. Here are some additional options to add to your de-stress list.
8. Go to bed an hour earlier.
Sleep is a magical elixir when it comes to mental health. Research shows that losing Zs can make it difficult to regulate emotions and make you more irritable. Not to mention too little rest can lead to physical health setbacks.
9. Try cutting down on alcohol.
Sure, a good glass of red at the end of a long day is one thing. But too many gin and tonics after a rough work week ― and the subsequent hangover ― may not be doing anyone any favors when it comes to psychological health. Some research suggests that heavy drinking can lead to an increase in anxiety.
10. Cut out toxic people.
It’s one thing if your good pal is going through a rough time and you’re there to help them through it. It’s another thing to be around someone who is constantly stressed over every single situation. It could be hurting your well-being: Research shows stress is contagious. The good news? So is happiness. Choose your squad wisely.
11. Tell people when you’re feeling anxious.
There’s power in sharing your emotions, as Sarah Jessica Parker discovered. And experts agree: Talking about your anxiety ― particularly with mental health professionals ― is key to managing and abating it.
“I used to not ever tell anybody because I thought that too many people were reliant on me to not be anxious, like they were all looking at me to make them feel better,” Parker told The Coveteur earlier this year. “Like anything, until the minute you talk about something it feels as if you are a balloon that’s been blown up and you have too much air in you. You just need somebody to let a little out.”
12. Donate time or money to a meaningful organization.
Here are a list of organizations that could particularly use your help right now.
“In addition to improving the lives of others, there is compelling evidence that volunteering can really improve the mental health of the volunteer by increasing a sense of purpose and strengthening social connections,” Srijan Sen, a professor at the University of Michigan Depression Center, told The Huffington Post.
13. Or just perform a random act of kindness.
Paying it forward can go a long way. Purchase a stranger’s coffee, take a mentor out to lunch or just hold the door open for someone who clearly needs a little help. Research even shows that it can boost your mood and compel you perform more acts of kindness.
“Putting love out in the world is an amazing way to help someone else ― and you ― feel happy,” Liz Eddy, director of communications at the Crisis Text Line, told HuffPost.
14. Allow yourself to feel sad.
Yep, you read that correctly. Human beings experience a spectrum of emotions and each one deserves attention. Research shows that crying can be cathartic and allow you to process whatever is upsetting you better. Grab those tissues and let it flow.
15. Plan a vacation.
The act of anticipation is just as much of a reward as the vacation itself. Research suggests that planning a trip can increase your happiness. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend adventure or an excuse to use up your vacation days, start looking into hitting the road.
16. Recite self affirmations.
Inner dialogues can be incredibly brutal. But promising research shows that self affirmations ― or the act of focusing on your strengths and what you value ― can help combat some of the negativity your brain tends to churn out.
For example, are you a creative type? Think about how you discovered that and the ways you’ve expressed your creativity in the past. Experts say this technique has a way of buffering you against stress and gets you thinking about items that feed into a positive sense of self.
17. Give yourself a break.
So often human beings put pressure on themselves to “do it all,” which can lead to burnout and guilt. You’re your own worst critic. Cut yourself some slack next year and start accepting yourself wholly (research shows it’s the key to a happier life, but a habit many rarely practice). Sooner or later you’ll be on your way to being more exuberant and tranquil.
Cheers to 2017 being the, well let’s just say opposite, of 2016.