After the year we’ve had, and with most normal holiday traditions having gone out the window, the key to a happier and healthier 2021 might well start with some realistic, compassionate New Year’s resolutions.
See below for our top 5 tips for starting your year right.
Rather than beating yourself up about all the things you need to change and the new, better version of yourself you need to become, what about reflecting on the ways in which you’ve actually coped really well during the stressful and unpredictable year we’ve had?
Did you learn a new skill that boosted your self-esteem? Did taking some time for mindfulness help during the worst of lockdown? Did you feel a lot better when you were out in nature or spending time with a particular person?
Start by writing a list of the things that helped you, or perhaps a journal entry about your reflections on 2020. While you’re at it, give yourself a massive pat on the back for making it through and taking care of yourself and your loved ones the best you could.
If you do decide to make a New Year’s resolution, try and pick something manageable. Choosing to make small, positive changes can benefit your confidence as they’re easier to keep up. Plus, these doable changes are much more likely to become habits in the long term.
Below are some small, practical ideas that can benefit your mental health for 2021:
1. Try mindfulness
Mindfulness is proven to have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing. Over the last ten years, hundreds of studies have been conducted proving the positive effects of meditation such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved memory and focus, better relationships and reduced emotional and physical pain.
It’s important to remember when starting your mindfulness journey to start small and be patient with yourself. Apps like Headspace provide options for free trials and introductory courses to help you imbed the practice in your life.
2. Start a gratitude diary
Why not experiment with how looking on the bright side could improve your life? Making a note of the things in our day that have gone well can help ground us when things are rocky.
When considering the things you feel grateful for, be specific and keep it simple, for example, “My colleague made me laugh today” or “My partner got up early to make me breakfast”. The act of recalling these small moments is proven to help us focus on positive elements of our day and increases our sense of wellbeing.
You could try writing these in a journal, which can be a lovely thing to revisit when you need a boost. If writing isn’t your thing, you could try starting a practice with the person you live with, sharing three things you’re grateful for each night before you go to sleep. I try to do this regularly with my partner, which helps us to feel connected and, if we mention something the other has done, appreciated!
3. Take a break from social media
Regular digital detoxes are a healthy ritual to begin in 2021. We’ve all probably had moments over the last year when our social media apps have made us feel connected and less lonely during multiple lockdowns. However, you may also have noticed that increased usage of these apps has made you more anxious and less able to switch off.
Why not try deleting one or more of your apps for a month, and seeing what that’s like? If this is difficult, try scheduling in a social media free hour before bed. This can also help with a healthier, calmer bedtime routine.
Want a simple, free way to improve your physical and mental health? Just starting putting one foot in front of the other! There’s never been a more important time to ensure you’re getting fresh air and getting out of the house. If you’re working from home, or even if you find yourself with a spare ten minutes on your lunch break, taking the time out to walk has a lots of benefits. If you’ve also started a mindfulness practice, you could try embedding this into your walk too!
5. Tweak your bedtime routine
Did you know that your brain begins to prepare itself for sleep around two hours before it expects to actually hit the hay? Why not help it along by cultivating a relaxing bedtime routine?
Try not to make it too complicated or unrealistic. You probably won’t take a hot bath, turn your phone off and meditate every single night. But maybe you could carve out half an hour to decompress before sleep.
Setting a regular bedtime is also a fantastic way of regulating your sleep and ensuring you feel bright in the morning. Check out this article for more tips on a bedtime routine.
So, hopefully you have identified one or two areas of your life where you could make small and achievable improvements. Remember, changing habits takes time and patience; you won’t necessarily see results overnight and there will be times when you want to give up and go back to old habits.
Try letting a loved one in on your resolutions, or share them with as many people as possible. This will keep you accountable and might encourage others in your life to follow suit.
Thank you for reading and here’s to a happier 2021 for us all!