Here are a few practical New Year's resolutions that can help improve your mental health and increase your self-love:
Make time for activities that help you relax and recharge, such as meditation, exercise, or hobbies. This is number one because it should always be a priority, but the topic of how to practice self-care is a whole article (or more) on its own. We intend to delve deeper into this topic in the near future so, please keep an eye out for new articles.
Get Enough Sleep
Establish a consistent sleep schedule and aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. We understand there's nothing easy about achieving this simple one-sentence goal and understand if you scoffed while reading it. We've found that the more you need sleep, the harder it can be to get sometimes. It would be hypocritical of us to just throw this one out there and leave it as such, so let's elaborate on some suggestions.
Things that have helped one or both us improve our sleep quality and/or quantity:
Going to bed together. If one person goes to bed and the other stays up to "finish an episode", keep working, accomplish a personal project, etc, the person who stayed up and enjoyed that blissfully quiet time alone, is not likely to get nearly enough sleep. By supporting each other in our goal of healthier sleep habits, we both gain more.
Sleep meditations or music. One of us has found that listening to positive sleep mediations or wordless sleep music has improved the quality of sleep we're getting. The other partner did not feel the same about it, so you may have to experiment for yourself, and if necessary acquire some headphones. We can recommend bone conduction headphones as they won't leave you with sore ears in the morning. These are the pair we first bought as they're one of the cheapest options that are still highly rated and we're happy with them after using for a few months.
Comfortable bedding. If you're thinking about how ridiculously expensive sheets can be right now, we agree. Completely. However, the saying that you spend 1/3 of your life in bed should help put this in perspective. Sheets that feel comfortable to you, that you look forward to at the end of the day, and hold up over time are an investment that pays off in ways we don't usually think about. If you've already got some great cotton, bamboo, flannel (whatever makes you happiest when snuggling in at night) sheets, how about your blankets and pillow(s)? If your bed isn't something you look forward to getting into, then a practical goal for 2023 is acquiring the right components to make that change happen.
Make a daily habit of writing down three things you're grateful for. This is a common exercise assigned when starting therapy but doesn't require a therapist to be used. The purpose of the exercise is to subconsciously help shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive ones. Of course, practicing gratitude doesn't need to require writing or schedules and can be accomplished just by setting some quiet time aside to reflect on what you're grateful for that day. It can feel hard to think of things we're grateful for when our mental health is suffering, but remember that it doesn't have to be grand or remarkable events. It can be as simple as a warm meal, a kind gesture from a friend, or a beautiful sunset.
You can also try taking this to the next level by consciously choosing to find at least one thing to be grateful for in a difficult experience or situation. Maybe you were looking forward to a planned family event when one of your kids got sick and now you can't do that activity. You could be grateful for the extra time to get something done in the house or even just for some extra rest. Teething baby kept you up all night (this is a hard one to find something to be grateful for in the moment)- maybe focus on the extra cuddles you received or the pride in being the person they get comfort from.
A daily practice of gratitude is a fantastic habit to teach your children and may help them cultivate resilience and an overall positive outlook on life. You could accomplish both by doing it together before bed. (This is something we do in our home and it's been surprisingly fun to hear what our oldest has come up with some evenings.)
Eat A Healthier Diet
Incorporate more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your meals and limit your intake of processed and sugary foods. Yes, that IS standard advice, and NO we don't always follow it ourselves, but there's a good reason it's the standard. We would like to add here though that focusing on the QUALITY of food you're consuming can make a huge impact on both your mental and physical health.
You don't need to eat oatmeal, eggwhites, and salad for the rest of your life (though all three can be delicious when prepared right), but if you consciously choose high-quality ingredients, that alone is improving your diet. Enjoying the food you consume can improve your mental health and definitely counts as self-care, so this one checks off all the boxes.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one's attention to the present moment and accepting it without judgment. It is a way of paying attention to and becoming more aware of one's thoughts and feelings in the present moment, and can involve activities such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
The goal of mindfulness is to increase one's ability to manage stress, improve mental and physical well-being, and cultivate greater awareness and acceptance of the present moment. It doesn't have to involve specific activities like meditation or yoga though.
Start by trying to pay attention to the present moment and focus on the positive aspects of your life as much as you can, consciously increasing your ability to do so. This can help you appreciate the little things and assist in cultivating a sense of gratitude.
No idea how to start this? Try sitting still and asking yourself "What do I see? What do I hear? What do I feel?"
You could also try thinking about how your body feels by starting with your toes and working your way up to your head. This was surprising when we started doing it and one of us realized that they'd become very disconnected from their body, ignoring discomforts and even pain sometimes.
It's one of those simple exercises that may seem silly or of no real value at first, but can be life-changing when practiced by someone that's not always in touch with themselves. Mindfulness is a trending topic that you could read a dozen books on and still continue learning more, so we'll just leave it as a potential New Year's resolution that would improve your quality of life in this over-simplified sentence:
"Truly be present in your body, space, and life."
Regular physical activity can improve mood, reduce stress, and boost self-esteem. It's especially critical for anyone dealing with mental health struggles (and often extra hard to accomplish.) Doctors generally recommend you aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. It's a difficult thing for many people, especially parents, and something we struggle with in our own home.
It often feels like you have to choose between sleep, quality time with your kids, or exercise. However, there are "hacks" that can make it easier to achieve at least some exercise, if not the complete suggested time commitment. We have found that our young children love joining us for exercise, even if that means 2 minutes on the treadmill at 1.5 miles an hour before they decide they're done, but that will usually buy us at least 15-30 minutes for our own workout. Dance parties in the living room are a regular event here and it's definitely a workout since our kids prefer if we adults do the actual dancing while carrying/swinging them around.
Seek Out New Experiences
Simply put: Try new things and step out of your comfort zone. This can help you learn and grow, and can also lead to increased self-confidence and self-love. Travel is what comes first to mind, but isn't always practical for a variety of reasons. If you can fit any type of travel into your year ahead, that could be a wonderful goal, but if you can't then take some time to think about other options.
Consider signing up for a class or workshop in a subject that interests you. This can be a great way to learn new skills and meet new people and can be done online too if that's the best way to make it happen for you. There are actually some pretty great online classes available for just about any interest you could have, and they're not all expensive either. Volunteering and trying out new hobbies count as seeking new experiences here as well.
Connect With Others
Spend quality time with loved ones and participate in social activities that bring you joy. An undervalued resolution idea that goes along with "do more of what you love" essentially. The people in your life are the only things that are truly irreplaceable. If you've been busy trying to take your career to the next level, work through mental health struggles, or simply just survive, consider setting a goal around more quality time with the people you love. This doesn't have to be coffee dates or social gatherings, it can be a regular phone call or scheduled check-ins. There's no shame in setting a reminder on your calendar to call someone you've been meaning to catch up with and it could be exactly what you need to make this particular goal happen.
It's no coincidence that "set boundaries" follows "connect with others" here. While some may set a goal of spending more time with people they love, it's equally important for some people to set a goal of putting boundaries in place. (You likely already know if this applies to you, but it may require a nudge to accomplish since it often involves a difficult discussion.)
It's important to learn to say "no" when you need to and set limits on your time and energy. This can not only help protect your well-being and prevent burnout, but is often critical to improving your mental health AND boosting your level of self-love.
Setting boundaries doesn't have to be dramatic and doesn't always mean cutting people out of your life completely (but absolutely do that if that's what is in your best interest). It can be as simple as a text message letting someone know that you'll be charging your phone in the other room after x at night and won't be able to respond to them until you have time the next day. It can be blocking someone on social media if their posts regularly trigger negative thoughts or emotions for you. It could also be gently letting a friend know that you want the best for them and recommend that they speak to a professional because you're not trained to give them the best assistance with their own mental health struggles and want to be there to support them to the best of your abilities without unintentionally harming either of you in the process.
Seek Help When Needed
"Reach out for help"-I think this advice got a lot of traction during the pandemic and hopefully people are still using it. Don't be afraid to reach out for support if you're struggling with your mental health. Needing assistance with your mental health at times in your life is far more common than people previously realized.
Additionally, the widespread use of teletherapy and other forms of remote mental health treatment during the pandemic may have made it more accessible and convenient for people to seek help, potentially contributing to a greater acceptance of mental health counseling. (Silver lining)
If you haven't been speaking with someone regarding your mental health (or you don't think you've found the right fit yet) setting the goal of reaching out to a trusted friend, family member, or mental health professional for guidance and support could be the best goal you can set for 2023.
Be kind to yourself and remember that no one is perfect. (No matter what you think of someone else, we promise, they aren't actually perfect.) When you make a mistake, try to speak to yourself the way you would speak to a friend. This is at the bottom of the list, but it's probably the number one thing you can do to improve your mental health and increase your self-love this year. It really can't be overstated.
If you're not sure this is relevant to yourself or would make any difference, try tracking what you say/think to yourself in a day (or even a few hours) and compare that to the way you speak to others. Chances are you're far more critical, rude, and intentionally hurtful with the thoughts you direct at yourself.
You're going to spend the rest of your life with yourself, no one will have more influence over your thoughts, feelings, and choices than yourself, and no one has a better reason to love you than you do. It may not always feel that way, but it's true. So please, whatever goals you do or don't set for 2023, practice self-compassion. You deserve it. Really, you Do!
Happy New Year 😁💕