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5 Mental Health Goals to Incorporate Into the New Year

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It’s almost 2018, and many of us have New Year’s resolutions in mind. It seems one of the most popular resolutions is to lose weight. We vow that on January 1st we’ll eat better and join the gym. Or maybe your goal isn’t to lose weight: you want to start a business, get a promotion, travel or make more money. However, we tend to overlook New Year’s resolutions that involve our mental health.

Here are five mental health goals to incorporate into the new year that will promote mental wellness and happiness.

1. Set boundaries

Setting boundaries will require you to be more in tune with yourself. Boundaries are necessary for yourself and others. It sets the tone for how you treat yourself and how you allow people to treat you. It helps you to be assertive and confidently state what you need. You might be in fewer situations that force you to experience resentment and anger, and boundaries promote peace and safety. In addition, it gives you more time to nourish your mind, body and soul.

For instance, if you asked people not to call you after 9 p.m., do not answer the phone. If you told yourself that you must leave the office by 5 p.m. to make it to your 6 p.m. fitness class, then make sure you leave on time. Stick to your boundaries. Your health depends on it and sometimes your life.

2. Remove toxic people from your life

For some reason, we tend to think that because someone is a childhood friend or family member, we are required to keep them in our life. I have no idea where this unofficial golden rule came from, but let’s leave that in 2017. You may have someone or people in your life who constantly take advantage of you and as a result, you feel drained. If you are constantly giving and never receiving, then it is time to reevaluate that person in your life. Maybe this person is a dream killer. You find that when you express your goals to them, they are constantly trying to talk you out of it, doubt you and always have something negative to say. However, you may need to limit how much you see that person if removing them is not an option.

Removing people from your life is easier said than done for some of us, but unhealthy relationships impact your health more than you may think. According to Live Science, a study completed by Journal of the American Medical Association reported that women who experienced moderate to severe marital strain are 2.9 times more likely to need heart surgery, suffer heart attacks or die of heart disease than women without marital stress. This was true when researchers adjusted for other factors such as age, smoking habits, diabetes, blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels. Women who experience more conflicts and disagreements in their relationships have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure, abdominal obesity and high blood sugar. As you can see, keeping toxic people in your life impacts you mentally, emotionally and physically.

3. Incorporate daily meditation.

As a person with an anxiety disorder, my illness can be very debilitating. It often leads to increase heart rate and shortness of breath to the point where I feel like I am going to have a heart attack.

Currently, I take medication to help alleviate many of my symptoms and it does wonders. However, coping strategies are also needed to help me manage my disorder. I decided to practice guided meditation for two weeks and saw a decrease in my anxiety symptoms and in this process, I learned I am not my thoughts. I am simply an observer of my thoughts. It also helped me to let go of things that I can’t control. We all know how hard that can be but worrying works against you. Meditation increase feelings of happiness and calmness. It also reduces your blood pressure, improves breathing and helps treat mood and mental disorders, according to Live and Dare. If you are new to meditation like me, download apps such as Calm or Headspace.

4. Commit to therapy.

I have been in therapy for two and half years. I see my growth and I must say I am super proud of myself. I went from having no desire to live and attempting suicide. Now, I wake up every day with a greater purpose, hope, optimism and a deeper compassion and love for myself. I worked through childhood traumas, I’m aware of triggers and have a “toolbox” to help me manage my depression and anxiety.

Let me clear the air: Therapy is not only for people who have a mental illness, does not mean you are crazy and it is not the same as talking to your friend. A therapist is an objective and non-biased person, unlike your friend who is emotionally extremely invested in you. No, this does not mean that therapist is not invested in you, but the investment is different. He or she is equipped with skills and knowledge to help you maneuver through everyday challenges. Therapy provides you with a confidential and safe space to work through your past, relationships, set boundaries, notice patterns and develop healthy coping strategies to manage stress. Your therapist holds you accountable and allows you to have a constant reality check.

Therapy does not work unless you work it. You have to apply what you learn in your daily life. Please do not think you are going to be “fixed” after a few sessions. Consistency is key. I encourage you to make a commitment to yourself, find a therapist you like and work well with. While you are writing down your goals for the new year, consider adding therapy to the list. The benefits are truly endless.

5. Practice forgiveness.

You are probably saying to yourself, “Practicing forgives is not a real goal.” Before you jump ahead of yourself, did you know that the lack of forgiveness can decrease your lifespan? Yes, your read right. According to Huffington Post, “People who practice conditional forgiveness — in other words, people who can only forgive if others say sorry first or promise not to do the transgression again — may be more likely to die earlier, compared with people who are less likely to practice conditional forgiveness.” This was discovered in a study by The Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

In addition, when you’re chronically angry it impacts your blood pressure, heart rate, and sleep, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Walking around angry gives permission for someone to live rent free in your mind and prevents you for growing and living a healthy life. Forgiveness does not mean you must speak to the person if the relationship is not worth rebuilding but it is up to you to evaluate. If this relationship is toxic, then of course it not worth rebuilding. Forgiveness simply means acceptance. You know you’ve forgiven someone if you are no longer walking around angry, losing sleep and wishing something bad will happen to that person.

Maybe you aren’t holding a grudge against someone, but you need to forgive yourself. Take the time and work through it. Therapy is also a perfect opportunity to help you with forgiveness.

Remember, the mind, body, and soul should operate as one.  Happy New Year and I wish a prosperous 2018!

Don’t forget to check out the first episode Fireflies Unite podcast with me, Kea on January 1st via iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Soundcloud and Google Music Play. Let’s normalize the mental health conversation within communities of color, grow and heal together!

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Originally published: December 31, 2017
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