What a year it’s been.
If you’re overthinking everything and stressed beyond measure, you’re certainly not alone. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Say goodbye to 2017 ― and some of the negative emotions that came with it ― by adopting a few of these expert- and research-backed habits in the new year.
They certainly won’t solve everything, but they’ll help make you feel a little calmer and happier in the moment. Baby steps, right?
1. Take news breaks
Research shows that negative news can poorly affect your mental health. Simply put, it’s absolutely essential to take time away from the barrage of bad news stories. Experts recommend this to their patients, and do it themselves to keep their own stress under control. Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself during a chaotic news cycle.
2. Say ‘no’ more often
Make 2018 the year you admit to yourself that you can’t do it all ― and embrace it. Saying “yes” to every offer, even the ones you really don’t want to agree to, can have long-term consequences. Therapists say a people-pleasing habit can hurt your mental well-being. Here’s a guide on how to politely turn down invitations without feeling like a complete jerk.
3. Use social media to your advantage
Research shows that excessive social media use can be bad for your mental health, and it’s necessary to take a break from your newsfeed. But let’s be real: It’s impossible to expect to stay unplugged from those updates all the time.
Reframe the way you view posts on platforms like Facebook and Instagram so you can build a healthier relationship with them. Experts recommend unfollowing accounts that don’t bring you joy, subscribing to more positive content and reminding yourself that what you’re seeing in your feed only shows a small portion of someone’s life.
4. Indulge in a new show
Sometimes a mental escape from reality is just what you need to reset your brain.
Try watching something funny (studies show laughter really is the best medicine) whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed. It can help curb your stress, Susan Krauss Whitbourne, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, previously told HuffPost.
5. Get active
There’s no substitute for exercise. Research shows that regular movement can help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
Make an effort to incorporate physical activity into your daily life, whether it’s going for a brief walk or trying a new fitness class. Here’s a guide on exercises you can do even if you lack fitness skills.
6. Lend your time to a cause you care about
Therapists say more of their patients reported feeling helpless after the 2016 election, and the stress surrounding the political climate has only increased.
Experts recommend getting involved in charities or causes you care about in order to offset these negative emotions. By getting active, you’re taking control ― and that can help relieve anxiety.
7. Learn to cook something new
Flex your creative muscles and give yourself a mental escape in the process.
“When I feel stressed or distressed by the negative, unhappy news and/or politics, I go to the grocery store, buy food that I enjoy and I head home and make dinner,” Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, previously told HuffPost. “I can make what I want, what I like and how I like it to taste, and that helps me feel better.”
8. Spend money on experiences
Research shows that memories, not material possessions, make us happier when it comes to spending disposable income. Vacation, anyone?
9. And learn to budget everywhere else
No surprise here: Data suggests finances are one of the biggest stressors for Americans. Learning how to budget your income and finding ways to save are incredibly vital to your life, experts say. Check out this manual for tips on how to do it responsibly.
10. Give journaling a try
Writing can help clear your mind, said Amy Poon, a psychiatrist at Stanford Health Care.
“A lot of people find it really helpful for sorting out thoughts, reflection and building more calm,” she told HuffPost. “It can be very cathartic.”
And you don’t need to write something every day to reap the benefits, Poon added. Try journaling once a month or once every few weeks if that seems like a more manageable schedule.
11. Adopt a positive mantra
Celebrities like Oprah swear by sticking to a mantra, which may give you a little boost when you need it. Pick something that inspires you (for example, “I am worthy”) and attach it to your mirror, your desk or wherever you’ll see it most. It sounds corny, but research shows it works.
12. Make a goal rather than a resolution
Smaller goals may be more attainable than an overall, lofty aim. Pick a few things you want to achieve this year, then be real with yourself about the progress, Poon advised.
“As with any habit, it can be really hard to maintain over the long term,” she said. “Check in every month and think about your goals and what you are trying to accomplish. Then reflect and re-evaluate if they are realistic.”
13. Turn your bed into a sanctuary
By now you know that sleep is vital to happiness and overall functioning. But do you ever think about where you’re sleeping and how you treat that space?
It can be easy to turn your bed into a catch-all for laundry or an extension of your office. However, your brain needs to associate it with sleep ― and experts say it might have difficulty doing so if you’re also using it for other activities. Keep your bed a place for sleep and sex, and see if it transforms your Zs.
14. Set boundaries with your loved ones
When it comes to family, it can be hard to assert yourself and communicate your needs ― especially when tough topics come up, like politics or your dating life. But boundaries are incredibly important when it comes to self-care.
Experts say it’s critical to remember that you have a choice when it comes to these conversations: You don’t necessarily have to engage. Here are some ways to manage those anxiety-provoking conversations while still looking after your own mental health.
15. Tackle your imposter syndrome head-on
The idea that you’re “not good enough” can be largely fabricated by your own mind. The phenomenon is known as imposter syndrome, and it mostly pops up at work, like when you’ve been promoted or trusted with a new responsibility. And it can cause a lot of anxiety.
Experts recommend getting out of that fraudulent mindset by defining what success and failure actually look like to you. And take a look at these other professional-approved ways to tackle imposter syndrome.
16. Reframe your negative thoughts
“What if the country falls apart?” “What if I get laid off from my job?” Worrying about the state of the world or your life is natural, but there’s a point where it becomes unhealthy. Entertaining those automatic negative thoughts can take a toll on your mental health, according to Poon.
Figure out what triggers these thoughts to appear, she said, then take the best course of action to help you manage them. Therapy may help give you the tools you need, or try following this guide for when you’re ruminating over anxious thoughts.
17. Learn to recognize toxic personalities in your life
Your squad has a profound impact on how you feel. Research shows stress is contagious ― and so is happiness. Check out this list of the different kinds of toxic people you may encounter and tips for how to deal with them. Cut out that negativity ASAP.
18. Put yourself first
It’s a fact of life that you can’t please everyone. The one person you can make happy, however? Yourself.
Vow to look inward in the coming year if you’re always putting others’ feelings above your own, Poon said.
“Find the words to communicate what you need. You can say it in a way where you don’t feel bad for asking, or won’t get upset that the other person may be less happy with you,” she said. “You can’t make other people happy all the time, and it’s important to be OK with that.”
Ready to take on 2018?
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