Several years ago I read an interesting New Year’s resolution that I LOVED: This year, do 1 new thing you’ve NEVER done before.
2013: Visited an old asylum in St. Louis and got locked accidentally in the basement.
2014: Went to California (and got lost in a wooded forest where the trail ended with a creepy old graveyard! Yikes!)
2015: Hiked my first backpacking trip for 5 days with strangers.
2016: Moved to Nebraska.
Became a homeowner.
Was a Maid of Honor.
Adopted a blind dog.
Started a private practice.
That’s SIX BIG new things in ONE year! I’m so far ahead on my “new things” goal that I can take a relaxing break until 2021, right? Ahhh, if only that’s how life worked… Perhaps it’s time for a new New Year’s Resolution.
Make 2017 a year to care for your mental health. Some common resolutions will naturally help with your emotional well-being, such as becoming more active, eating healthier, decluttering, increasing your gratitude, and improving your relationships. Here are a few other resolutions that can have a huge impact on your happiness and success this next year!
I will determine what I most value and focus on living those values with purpose.
Every New Year brings with it an opportunity to reflect on what we’ve done in the past year and what we hope or plan to do in the upcoming year. And the most popular resolutions are ones that our culture tells us will make us happy if we are successful.
Only one problem. That’s not how happiness works.
Now don’t get me wrong. Having realistic goals where you can see your progress can be very good for your emotional and mental health! But most of us create goals that are too big or unrealistic, or that don’t actually reflect what we want in life. We allow magazines and Facebook and cinema and TV ads and Twitter and our friends and family to dictate to us what is important in life.
Sometimes they’re right, sometimes they have the goal right but may be wrong about how to achieve the goal, and sometimes they’re wrong altogether. For example, the western world is obsessed with gaining increasing volumes of stuff (of course commercials want you to buy more…), rather than expanding our life story.
This year before you make a New Year’s Resolution, take some time to think about what your values are. List out your top 5 values. This can be difficult, as most of us value many more than five. But really contemplate which 5 are the most important for you to have. Or what characteristics are most crucial in your close relationships?
Have your actions and behaviors lined up with those values in the past 2 weeks? What can you do more to live according to your values? If we consistently live in congruence with our strongest values, we will find ourselves happier no matter the circumstances around us.
I will treat myself with respect.
Too often this time of year, we focus more on our weaknesses than our strengths. We beat ourselves up over past failures and desperately search for answers on how to improve. It’s OK to want to improve, and it’s also OK to simultaneously accept who you are right now. Some people believe that acceptance means that you will lose your resolve to grow. Actually, being kind and affirming of your current state is an important step in achieving your goals.
If we focus too much on what we don’t want, we are not spending enough energy on what we do. Try respecting who you currently are – the parts you like and the aspects you don’t. Only allow yourself to think things that you would say to another person’s face. Then give yourself positive affirmations that are true. Here are a few examples:
I am becoming healthier everyday.
I have amazing and unique talents which I will use today.
I have the ability to overcome any obstacle I face.
Once you begin treating yourself with the same respect you give others, you will be amazed at how you want to live more according to those affirmations. If you see yourself as a naturally healthy person, you will live accordingly. If you see yourself as lazy or weak, you will live accordingly. Choose your self-talk very carefully.
I will forgive my past and future mess-ups and continue to grow closer to reaching my goals.
Many people live within a fixed mindset, meaning that they operate under the subconscious belief that their personal traits or characteristics are “carved in stone,” so to speak. This type of thinking manifests in various ways, one of which is an all-or-nothing attitude towards change.
I personally struggle with this all the time! I make a goal for myself and then expect myself to stay on-track. So if I miss one day of working out, I think “Well, there goes my goal out the window! Guess I won’t end up getting fit this year after all.” Then come the feelings of guilt, shame and frustration, followed by thoughts that I’m just too lazy or not strong enough.
It sounds absurd. As an outsider, you can easily find the flaw in my thinking! But when it’s your own personal goals, suddenly you may find yourself in the same All-or-Nothing mindset.
So for your mental health this year, remember that you are human. And humans are creatures of habit. If you are trying to change a habit, you WILL have some slip-ups. That’s normal. And you can still continue to progress towards your goals. One mistake does not undo all your hard work, and a past mistake does NOT predict future mistakes to come. So forgive your mess-ups and keep focused on your goals.
I will make my mental and emotional health a priority and see a counselor as needed.
It’s no secret that there is still a stigma about seeing a counselor in the U.S. Yet it’s truly one of the healthiest things we can do for our minds, our emotions, and our bodies. When you get sick or break a bone, you go to the doctor. Why should it be any different to go to a counselor for a checkup when the depression or anxiety returns?
Our brains are easily the most complex and intricate parts of our bodies. It is one of the few organs that we cannot live without and have no ability to replace. Seeing a therapist or counselor doesn’t make you “crazy.” It means you are wise enough to realize the importance of your mind and value your overall health. Even counselors go to therapy when they feel the need. So don’t let shame or fear stop you from finding yourself a good counselor that you connect with.
Come back next week for some basic behavioral economic techniques that can make reaching your goals a little easier. If you have decided to prioritize your mental health and are interested in finding a counselor you connect with, please email me or call at 531-289-8246. We can explore if River Cairn Counseling is a good fit for you, or refer you to another therapist who is. Have a wonderful start to 2017 this weekend!