At the start of a New Year, it’s common to make New Year’s resolutions. These usually range from having a particular goal, forming good habits, or stopping bad habits. In the current climate where COVID-19 is still very much amongst us, it’s important to have something to aim for. However there needs to be a level of flexibility and self-compassion when things don’t go to plan. Here are three New Year’s resolutions that are great for your mental health and encourage a boost in your mood.
Start a regular exercise routine
The key word here is to build new positive habits and a routine. When it comes to routine and habits it is imperative to start small and build on it rather than jump right in and expect big results at the start. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. With COVID-19 restrictions still in play and social distancing encouraged, many forms of exercises are now virtual based or great for those who prefer solo activities. Start with exercise programs that are free to view on Youtube to get into the rhythm of exercise before venturing into specific exercise programs run by external organizations. The key is to identify what works for you and what you enjoy. That could be anything from the time of day you are best motivated to exercise to the type of activity- some may enjoy more vigorous activities.
For a person new to exercise or one who struggles with doing it consistently, focus on doing something shorter in duration first rather than jumping into the recommended 150 minutes a week. It can be intimidating to think of doing exercise for 50 minutes, three times a week or even half an hour, five times a week; so starting off with a more achievable target such as ten minutes a day of stretching would help get you into the rhythm of exercise. You can then venture into something a bit more aerobic.
And remember, it’s perfectly ok to have times where you stop exercising and to start again. It’s a habit that takes time to become routine.
Eating healthier is great for your physical and mental health but you need to break this goal down into achievable steps just like exercise. Reflecting on your eating habits and trigger points will help you decide which areas need the most improvement. Knowing you’re an emotional eater is a great starting point of knowing how to eating healthier. The same goes for if you know you indulge in less than healthy snacks. Try replacing chips and chocolate with more unsalted nuts or fresh fruit instead. If you know that you can’t resist buying the chips when they are on sale, your trigger point is the grocery store. This means you need to plan trips to the store with that trigger in mind. To get around this could involve more meal planning. Maybe try having a list of what to buy and sticking to it. You might even want to trial online shopping for a bit. For a list of food suggestions beneficial for your mental health read our blog article Happy foods for mental health.
Sleep is vital for good mood and health and prolonged lack of sleep can have severe consequences. According to The Harvard Gazette the COVID-19 pandemic created a “perfect storm of sleep disorders.” Anxiety and depression exacerbated during the pandemic is often made worse with lack of sleep and it becomes a vicious cycle. As advised by Donn Posner, adjunct clinical associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, the best way to sleep better is not to force it. “If you can’t sleep do not try to force it,” said Posner, “good sleepers put no effort into sleep whatsoever”. According to him, napping for more than 20 minutes during the day disrupts your sleep patterns. He also states that ‘catching up’ on sleep during the weekends is also ill advised. For more tips on how to sleep better read our blog article
At Mood Active, we help people experiencing mild to moderate depression, anxiety and other mood disorders – such as Bipolar, PTSD, SAD and more – get back on their feet through exercise. We offer affordable exercise programs with the extra outreach. We also have coaching support and supervision needed for those who are struggling with their motivation. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.