2020 was a complicated year, to say the least. After dealing with an unexpected global pandemic and the social, financial, and emotional challenges that followed it, we all deserve to congratulate ourselves for pulling through and starting 2021 on a somewhat more positive note. According to a survey conducted by Psychiatric Times, many people describe 2020 as the worst year of their lives and have hopes that 2021 will bring better times. Well, no one can guarantee that turning the page on the calendar will make everything magically go away, but even if it doesn’t turn out to be perfect, you can still make the most out of it.
Reflect on what you learned in 2020
For most of us, 2020 was a continuous test that stretched the limits of our physical and mental health. But while it may be tempting to look back on 2020 thinking that it was all bad and hope to forget about it as soon as possible, it might be more constructive to start the new year by analysing the valuable lessons that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
The year that passed wasn’t the most enjoyable, and it brought many changes, but apart from being uncomfortable and disruptive, these changes also offered opportunities for learning and growth. In 2020, you may have learned to be better with money, how to balance work and parenthood, or how to keep a business afloat. You may also have learned to slow down, spend more time with your close family, and even found new hobbies. In many respects, 2020 was eye-opening in that it showed us what things really matter. For example, one survey showed that, in 2021, people will be 18% more likely to trust doctors and won’t skip routine visits anymore. In addition, 45% said that they realised the importance of health and fitness, and young consumers said that they learned to re-evaluate their fashion choices.
Of course, everyone experienced 2020 in different ways but no matter what your experience was, the beginning of a new year is an excellent opportunity to look back on what you learned and see how you can incorporate these lessons moving forward.
Take care of your body – it’s connected to your mind.
If there’s something that can always improve your mood and help you think more positively, no matter what, that something is a healthy lifestyle. After the not-so-beneficial eating and drinking habits that come with the holidays, returning to a healthier routine can boost mental resilience and help you achieve overall wellness.
Without going on a strict diet and workout plan, you can still incorporate healthy foods and activities into your daily routine: eat more fruits and vegetables, order takeout less often, and be active whenever possible. Thirty minutes of physical exercise every day (it doesn’t have to be too intense, even gardening counts as exercise), alleviates stress, reduces anxiety, and helps you sleep better – all of which are key for developing a positive mindset.
Make big plans, but break them down in realistic goals.
New Year’s resolutions are common this time of year, but did you know that by mid-January most people give up on them and mark them as a lost cause? Because of this, they feel guilty, less confident and become more prone to pessimistic attitudes the rest of the year. How can you counteract this? Keep your ambitious goals, but break them down, so they seem less intimidating. For example, if your goal is to read 100 books this year, but haven’t managed to open one yet, you may feel tempted to quit. Instead, aim for 30 minutes of reading every day. It sounds much more approachable, and because you’ll be able to count the progress each day, you’ll feel more motivated to stick to your goal.
Accept the things you cannot change.
Change is a natural part of life, but when dramatic changes come at you all at once, and you were used to having more control over your life, you may feel overwhelmed. 2021 could be better, or it could have other surprises in store. No matter how it turns out, learn to accept the things you cannot change and focus on controlling your reactions to them instead. For example, you cannot control another lockdown, but you can control how you choose to spend your time productively during that lockdown. You can also work towards developing healthy coping mechanisms that can help you think positively during challenging times. Drinking, overeating, gambling, and compulsive online shopping may provide momentary satisfaction, but they harm your mental health in the long run. Instead, you may want to take up a hobby that can help you unwind – the beginning of the year is the perfect time for this. It can be something new that you’ve always wanted to try, or you can rediscover old hobbies.
Clutter is not only unpleasant to look at, but also stressful and distracting. Research shows that living in a cluttered space for a long time makes it harder to accomplish what we set our minds to, and even make anxiety worse. A good January declutter can boost productivity and creativity, help you sleep better, and alleviate stress. Plus, if you switched to a work-from-home schedule, the time spent at home will be more enjoyable if your surroundings are neat and tidy.
Setting mental health goals
New Year’s resolutions shouldn’t be just for your physical health, career, and finances. They can also be about your mental health, and including some on your list can help you get closer to complete wellbeing. After a year that showed us how important mental health is, setting some goals can make a huge difference in your life. Here are some mental health goals you can set:
Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings
Say yes/no more often
Meditate for ten minutes every day
Go to therapy for the first time
And remember, be patient and kind to yourself. Developing a positive attitude doesn’t happen overnight, so keep practising.