It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the end of 2022 and are about to leap into the new year. If you’re in reflective mode, you may be thinking about what went well this year, what didn’t go so well, and what you hope to achieve in 2023.
Before you pull out the wine and kickstart your vision board party, think about your mental health this year. Killing it at work is great and thriving in love is too. However, these wins can feel insignificant if your mental health is bad. For this reason, consider adding mental health goals to your New Year’s Resolutions for 2023. When your mental health is thriving, accomplishing non-mental health goals may become much easier.
Approaching Resolutions In 2023
New Year’s resolutions can go from exciting to dreadful in weeks. This can happen when the resolutions are too lofty, inflexible, or aren’t personal to you.
It’s important you be intentional about your goals, says Jamila Jones, therapist, and owner of Reclaiming Minds Therapy in Chicago, Illinois.
“Be intentional about the life you want to create for yourself [and] about the life you desire,” she says.”
You also want to remember that mental health goals are more about a lifestyle or mindset shift than checking off a box from your daily task list.
Before setting your mental health goals for 2023, think about how you felt throughout 2022. Jones recommends asking yourself the following questions.
- What areas felt good this year?
- What were your wins?
- How do you want to build upon that?
- What didn’t work?
- How can you approach that area differently?
Jones says you should be honest and gentle with yourself when answering these questions.
“Your resolutions don’t have to be perfect or monumental, just something authentically important to you. No comparing your goals to the goals of those around you. These goals are yours and yours only,” she says.
You are in the best position to set goals relating to your mental health as you know what you need more and less next year. Here are a few suggestions you could add to your list.
Feel Your Feelings
How do you sit with yourself in a world where there are hundreds of social media platforms, the average daily use of social media is 2 hours and 27 minutes and 29 minutes, and there are over 80 apps on the average smartphone? Including work, chores, friends, family, kids if you have them, socializing and everything else competing for your attention. It can be challenging to be still and be with your feelings, but this is crucial to a healthy mental state, says Dr. Shanita Brown, therapist, and owner of Transformative Counseling and Consulting in Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Emotions and feelings are messengers; they help you learn about yourself and others,” she tells ESSENCE. “Masking or hiding feelings is essentially hiding your authentic self and potentially damaging your mental health.”
Suppose you aren’t familiar with what it means to sit with your feelings. In that case, it’s about being present when you’re feeling emotions versus avoiding them by distracting yourself or ‘positive thinking’ them away. When you don’t sit with your feelings, they may begin to express themselves in unhealthy ways, such as outbursts, harmful behaviors, or toxic habits.
Brown says you can practice sitting with yourself by journaling for five to ten minutes a day and offloading your emotions during that time. You may start to gradually begin to see patterns and get a better understanding of yourself the more you do this.
Practice Boundary Setting
You only get one life–spending most of it doing things you don’t want to do can make you feel like you’re passively living. Saying yes to a project you have no time for, being silent while someone repeatedly disrespects you, and saying yes to an expense you can’t afford are examples of living passively. Practice setting boundaries next year, be it around work, family, a romantic relationship, or technology consumption.
You can record your progress by journaling about times you want to set boundaries, how you felt throughout the process, and any challenges you had. Remember, boundary setting doesn’t have a destination. You keep practicing, showing yourself grace, and getting better with time. You could also focus on practicing setting a single boundary this year versus multiple.
If you follow The Nap Ministry on Instagram, you’ve probably gotten the memo by now that rest is not a reward. Tricia Hersey is living by example and is currently resting off the grid. Find ways to prioritize rest by dedicating time to exist peacefully in the mornings or before bed. Americans work an average of 34.4 hours a week as of 2022, and 35.2% of U.S. adults get under seven hours of sleep a night. As you probably gather, many of us are overworked and under-rested.
Rest can look like taking a nap, reading a book, staring out the window, meditating, washing your body more slowly in the shower, or listening to your favorite song 50 times. The point is to choose a rest practice that embodies your needs and remember that rest is your birthright and not something you need to earn. While you’re at it, you should read a copy of Rest is Resistance if you haven’t already.
Pick Up a Physical Activity
Weight loss, gain, or developing six-packs are sexy goals, but they aren’t the only reasons to stay active. Your physical health can affect your mental health and vice versa, so it’s a win-win when you care for both, says Brown. She tells ESSENCE that people should pay attention to their bodies and what they are telling them.
“Physical health is just as important as mental health; they are connected through pathways such as neurotransmitters and chemicals that impact our mood and emotions,” she explains. “Quite often, emotional wounds manifest in our body, such as digestive issues, headaches, or insomnia.”
Brown suggests exercising two to three days a week for 30 minutes to relieve physical stress and emotional distress.
Spend More Time With Your Inner Child
It’s unlikely that all your needs were met in childhood because that would mean you had perfect parents. As adults, we must become more aware of our unmet childhood needs and find ways to address them. This can be done through inner-child work. This sometimes strange and awkward practice can facilitate healing from any trauma experienced during childhood and help you connect with yourself more deeply.
How do you reconnect with your inner child? Therapy is certainly a good place to start. You may also try guided inner child meditations, engaging in activities you loved as a child, or writing your younger self a letter. The goal is for the adult to give the younger version of yourself what you weren’t able to get as a child.
Find An Outlet For Your Emotions
Bottling up your emotions is easy when you’re afraid of being vulnerable. If you’ve been hurt and disappointed repeatedly, that may be one reason why you’re reluctant to share. If you struggle with this, consider making it a goal to share your emotions more this year. Explore options for safe spaces and find which works best for you. Safe spaces could include a therapist, a specialized support group (online or in person), a trusted friend, or even your journal. Internalizing negative emotions can harm your mental well-being and keep you from experiencing the beauty and intimacy accompanying vulnerability.
New Year’s Resolutions shouldn’t be mentally draining; they should be something to look forward to. They can become exhausting when you disregard any progress you make when you don’t reach your desired end goal, says Jones.
“If we can remind ourselves that the destination is not the only important factor in creating resolutions and that the journey to the destination is just as important, then many people can relax and enjoy the process and ultimately find themselves accomplishing what they set out to.”