As someone who deals with anxiety on a daily basis, I am doing my best to focus on improving my mental health. I plan to start working with a therapist to develop better management tools for anxiety and stress, which can sometimes be so bad it can be paralyzing. Because I don't want anything to hold me back (especially since I'm training for my first marathon!), getting anxiety under control is of the utmost importance.
A lot of you also struggle with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and even just high amounts of stress. Let's make this year about having our healthiest bodies and brains and finally taking control of our mental health. We got a list of seven incredible resolutions from psychologist Stephanie Parmely, Ph.D, from Mercy Medical Group, a service of Dignity Health Medical Foundation.
We obviously love this suggestion, but it's awesome to have an expert back it up. "Over the past 10 years, multiple studies have found that exercise can be just as effective, if not more so, than antidepression medication," said Dr. Parmely. "For those seeking a more holistic approach to tackling depression and anxiety, regular exercise boosts endorphins. Even the smallest physical activity can work wonders — it takes only 12 minutes of exercise per week to improve a person's health." .
Dr. Parmely reinforced you don't have to do a ton to make a big impact on your mood. She recommends a 10-minute exercise video three times a week, or just keeping a regular gym schedule. "Find time to exercise; you won't regret it."
2. Develop a Sense of Mastery
"Feeling a sense of accomplishment can help reduce the risks and impact of depression," she said. "This is especially important for parents helping their children overcome depression. It's important to find a sense of mastery — no matter how big or small the achievement may be." Are you not giving yourself enough credit? Make your resolution to be kinder to yourself. "Sometimes, we forget to acknowledge the good we've done, so next time you fix a leaky faucet or organize your files, take the time to recognize yourself for successfully completing a task from start to finish."
"Our mental health is just as important as our physical health and deserves the same kind of conditioning and dedication," Dr. Parmely said. And how does one do this? With meditation, of course! "Meditation is exercise for the brain, helping to strengthen the frontal lobe, which is the part of our brain that controls the negative impulses and triggers." To get started, we'd recommend trying a meditation app, or as Dr. Parmely suggested, try "following an instructional breathing video on YouTube [or] focusing on a page in your adult coloring book."
4. Do What Makes You Happy
As it turns out, "do what you love" actually makes for an awesome New Year's resolution. "A common question when diagnosing depression is 'are you no longer doing something you used to enjoy?'" she said. "Think about what might have previously brought you happiness that you may have let go in 2016. Dancing, painting, or organized sports — whatever the activity may be — if it brought you happiness in the past, it will likely provide that seem feeling again in 2017."
Just another reason to get extra ZZZs: it's good for your mental health. "While consistent sleepiness can be a sign of depression, sleep is not an enemy. A good night's rest leads to a clearer mind to start your day ready to tackle any negative thoughts." We're all for this. Dr. Parmely also mentioned that "people tend to sleep better in the Winter months, given the colder temperatures and less daylight, which increases melatonin." If you need a boost of melatonin as the seasons become brighter, try taking a supplement to get some shut-eye.
6. Don't Forget Your Vitamins
Did you know certain vitamins and minerals can fight stress and depression? While you'll want to eat foods rich in these vitamins and minerals, you might need a boost in the Winter when you're starting these resolutions. "Essential vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin B are especially crucial in the Winter months," said Dr. Parmely. "Less sunshine means less natural vitamin D, which is important for maintaining the mood-boosting brain neurotransmitter serotonin. Vitamins B-12 and B-6 also play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect a person's mood."
7. Lend a Hand
Giving back to those in need can absolutely improve your mood — and it's backed by science. "This year brought a lot of emotional confusion to people. Often times, we're left defeated when we feel we could have made a difference and didn't," she said. "Shaking that feeling and taking action can lead to a happier, healthier, and more stable frame of mind. Get involved. Volunteer your time, money, or skills to a cause you admire. Giving back is as humbling for the soul as it is healthy for the brain." Sounds like an amazing resolution and an awesome way to spend 2017.