January is a time for resolutions, goal-setting and leveraging the power of your intention to make this your best year ever! In addition to physical fitness and nutrition, what are your goals for healthy relationships and tending to your own mental and emotional health in 2019? Many studies have shown that our mental, emotional and relationship lives have a powerful impact on our overall health. The mind/body connection is not just an idea — mental and physical health really are interrelated. Comprehensive wellness depends on not only caring for your body, but your mind and relationships as well. Here are some tips for optimizing your mental, emotional and relationship wellness in 2019.
1. Develop Relaxing Habits
In this fast-paced world, many of us struggle with anxiety or stress. Either can keep you from feeling good or being your best self in your relationships, as well as impact your physical fitness and health. It does the mind and body good to have some relaxing habits built into each day. If you make relaxing a habit, you’re more likely to engage in the activity rather than put it off due to work or responsibilities. Consider drawing an Epsom salt bath at the end of the day, playing a nice record at dinner, or taking your dog for a walk after work as possibilities. Other ideas include changing clothes when you come home to something more comfortable (which also induces a psychological state change out of work mode), getting a massage, or just exchanging foot rubs with your partner.
2. Take a Self-Inventory
It’s easy for mental health issues to sneak up on us and cause problems before we take them seriously. To guard against the sneak-attack effect, do a self-inventory periodically. Ask yourself, “How has my anxiety been lately? Have I been feeling stressed, yelling at the kids, or generally impatient? When I get out of bed, do I look forward to the day? Have I been skipping meals or feeling overly negative in my outlook? Do I feel tired, lethargic or a sense of heaviness? When I think about my relationship, does it make me happy or induce stress? Have I been drinking alcohol, smoking weed, or using other drugs in significantly higher quantities than usual? Do I like myself and feel good about who I am these days? These types of questions help you be honest with yourself about your actual mental wellbeing and help you focus on improving so you don’t sweep issues under the rug or allow them to grow. For added clarity, we recommend writing your answers down on paper for added self-reflection.
3. Focus on Your Sleep
Sleep is a master key to mental and emotional health. It doesn’t solve everything, but it gives our mind more of a buffer against stress, anxiety and emotional fragility. To increase your self-care in 2019, practice some basic sleep tips: 1. Set a time that you wind down and prepare for sleep each night and stick to it; 2. Do calming activities like taking a shower, meditating or reading a book before sleep each night. Try to stay off electronics; 3. Keep your room cool, dark and quiet. Use a sleep mask if needed to block out light; 4. Consider using a tracking app that gives you your sleep stats each day. Just as with fitness, knowing your numbers can help motivate you to improve them!
4. Spend Time with Healthy People
This may be surprising, but a considerable amount of our mental and emotional health is due to the people we surround ourselves with. The brain is very relational, and it takes our sense of self and wellbeing in many ways from our interactions with others. In addition, the quality of our relationships has been proven to be a primary determinant of our overall health. Resolve to spend time with people who love you, think about you, and care about you. Focus your friendships on those that are a good influence regarding the person you want to become, not just the person you are now. Choose people that make you feel good. If you have friends that are insensitive, or detached, consider making new friends that are more interested in having a close relationship with you.
5. Join a Wellness Community
It can be hard to motivate ourselves to greater heights on our own. The power of community is well known for its ability to inspire us and carry us along with the group energy. If you’re not already a part of a wellness community, consider joining a group of people that are interested in greater health, love and happiness in life. Commit to at least one activity a week or month with that group. Not only will your efforts be boosted by the activity of the group, but you’ll learn valuable tips from others to optimize your health and wellness. The positive and motivated outlook of others tends to rub off on us and before we know it, we have more of those same qualities ourselves! Such groups can involve healthy cooking classes, jogging, meditation, yoga, group therapy, fitness with a community vibe, educational workshops and more. Ask around!
6. Have Deeper Conversations with Friends
Having quality friends is one thing, but do we really open up and let others in? Sometimes we have a good network of people we’re connected to, and who may even care about us, but we don’t engage our friends in a way that really unburdens our mind and heart of the pressures of life. Our modern world often encourages us to shoulder our burdens internally and in an isolated manner, but it’s not healthy. Try opening up to your friends and having deeper conversations about life. Your friends are certainly going through and feeling many of the same things you are. Don’t be ashamed of your more difficult challenges — be they physical, emotional, relational or mental — we all have them. It can feel risky and vulnerable to open up and share your real thoughts and feelings with others, but the relief of not feeling alone is often well worth it! Opening up is a basic function of tribe and community for humans and helps us feel connected while creating an important outlet for emotional stress.
7. Find a Great Therapist
Some emotional and mental challenges can benefit greatly from professional support. While going to therapy used to have a stigma attached to it, having a therapist is now considered a normal, if not cool, way to address life’s challenges. A therapist can listen while you talk about how you’re feeling in your relationship, at work, and in life, without judgment, and can make helpful suggestions to optimize your happiness and wellbeing. You get to hear yourself think out loud and organize your thoughts about life, without anyone you actually know hearing what comes out. And when it comes to more serious ailments like depression, toxic relationships, strong anxiety and more. The help of a well-trained professional is indispensable.
8. Do Something About It
Positive change sometimes requires doing something different from your usual approach. Very often, mental and emotional health challenges get neglected because we’re busy or we assume enough time may straighten things out. We recommend you take the bull by the horns, take charge of your mental, emotional and relationship health, and actively pursue change. It’s rare that people regret making moves in the direction of greater wellbeing, but many people later regret not having done more to improve their life sooner. We take our car to the mechanic for a tune-up and inspection, but often our mental and emotional lives don’t get similar support. The start of 2019 offers the opportunity to focus on a few areas and give yourself the gift of a healthier mental, emotional and relationship life! Here’s to an awesome year!
John Howard and Peter Craig are psychotherapists at Austin Professional Counseling™. They help their clients lower anxiety, heal depression, improve relationships and more.