Every year, millions of us affirm that we are going to change our life styles and cut out the bad habits that we have accumulated. For most people, New Years resolutions are focused on the big efforts such as quitting smoking or drinking, and because they are so large, many invariably fail. While attempting to give up smoking and drinking is laudable, the negative mindset of failure is almost as damaging, and there is a growing school of thought that, conversely, boosting mental health is almost as good for you as giving up smoking and drinking.
Key to this is to pick Resolutions that are easier to attain, but this is where many get tripped up. The term resolution – to resolve – tends to be associated with the removal of bad habits rather than changing your lifestyle to include positive changes, but by making this simple turn-around, you suddenly open up a whole world of potentially achievable resolutions. But what are these positive changes of which I speak? Let’s have a look.
Rather than cut out the drinking why not pledge to eat healthier. That is actually pretty easy to achieve and doesn’t necessarily involve cutting but all of the bad stuff that you consume either. Why not take a bag of apples or citrus fruit to work to snack on rather than sugary or starchy snacks. Try to get a little balance in the foods and drinks that form the basis of most people’s diets and you are on the right path.
Learn to plan ahead. While this might sound easy, to do it right takes a lot of practice. Most people have to carry out some kind of planning in their lives but frequently fail, and that can lead to a low mood. Learn how to correctly plan you day – even if it is with only a few parts of your everyday activities and you will soon start to feel positive. Once you have managed to regularly organise and carry out a few tasks, start to extend it, and pretty soon, planning and executing will become second nature.
Meditate. In terms of achieving, this is actually a pretty easy win. Learning to meditate frightens many people but is easier to start than many think. First, you must assume a comfortable position, which can be in your favourite chair rather than on the floor to start with. Once you feel at ease, you may commence the practice of meditation. Simply inhale with your eyes closed and repeat the word "breathe in" in your mind. Say "breathe out" after exhaling. During the following twenty minutes or so, concentrate as intently as possible on this circular respiration and the simple words in your mind. It will only take a few goes to get into the spirit of it, and you can think about taking up a proper meditation pose.
Start a journal. It doesn’t have to be long or intense, and you don’t need do it every day – it’s not a diary – but by getting your thoughts down on paper, you can offload a lot of your troubles. Don’t be concerned with making it for other people – your journal can be just for you, so don’t ever feel foolish about setting out your thoughts. If you actually do want to engage with others, you could start something online like a Substack instead. The choice is yours.
Relax with your loved ones. It can be difficult to make time for loved ones a priority amidst the frenetic pace of daily life, particularly if they reside far away or have their own schedules that are demanding. Make a deliberate effort to schedule that one-on-one time this year, whether through the organisation of monthly family dinners or a weekly Zoom or FaceTime check-in.
All of these are regarded as being highly positive yet relatively easy to achieve changes and research has shown that even quite small wins are enormously beneficial. And, it has been found that if a person recognises that they have positively impacted their lives by even a small amount, they are more likely to extend themselves next time. So, try something easier this year and next, and then you may be in a much better position mentally to tackle bigger goals.