As 2014 comes to an end, you may be starting to think about New Year's resolutions to make 2015 your best year yet. But what kind of resolutions are best for boosting your mental wellbeing throughout next year. As Accredited Counsellor Roslyn Byfield points out, the three most common New Years Resolutions are to lose weight, exercise more and give up smoking. "Though these will have a positive effect on mood, how would it be for resolutions to really focus on your mental wellbeing?" she says.
"It's not often talked about but it's important. Rather than only focusing on physical health goals, which could seem rather punishing and aren't necessarily lasting (gyms are a lot quieter come February!) it could help to enhance your mental wellbeing, helping build resilience and making stress, anxiety and depression less likely to take hold," Roslyn adds.
We asked eight RSCPP therapists to suggest mood boosting resolutions to help you give yourself a mentally healthy 2015.
Imagine your constant companion throughout life - YOU - as your very closest friend. How about you resolve, this New Year, to develop the healthiest relationship you can with your closest friend. Learn to smile within your heart as you observe, with compassionate understanding, your fallible, imperfect, human self doing and being! Drawing on both personal and professional experience, I have noticed how treating yourself in this way has immense and profound therapeutic, relaxing and calming effects, not just on you but also on your relationships with other people and your world.
If you find that you have spent the last year putting other people's needs before your own, perhaps now is a good time to start focusing on you and what you need. Every day we are pulled in so many different directions; from your kids to your boss and your spouse, and the pulling rarely ceases. You are a human being that needs to be loved with great care, just like everyone else. You deserve to be loved as equally as you love others. If you've lost yourself in the process of caring for others, then you must make it your mission to go out, find yourself and care for yourself like never before.
Deep abdominal breathing helps to induce a feeling of calmness. By oxegenating the system and removing toxins, effective breathing can have many health benefits, which include lowering the heart and pulse rate, cholesterol levels and blood pressure. This resolution requires no cost or equipment and takes no time out of your day, but the benefits are instantly rewarding and have a lasting effect if practised regularly. Simply breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowing down your natural speed slightly, and concentrate on the rise and fall of your stomach. Try this anywhere, anytime, including whilst stood in a queue or whilst waiting for an appointment.
Reflect and take some time for understanding and for peaceful and restorative moments, for example through noticing the natural world around you, through mindfulness or meditation practice. You may also want to think about therapy, perhaps to explore and understand things which may be preventing you from finding fulfilment and enjoyment in your life.
This year, make a resolution to bring more joy and pleasure into your life. We often think that our happiness depends solely on external circumstances, but actually we are much more capable of evoking positive experiences in our life than we think. A good idea is to make a list of all the activities, places, people and anything else that makes you feel good in life and commit to engaging in one of those every day, or as often as suits your own schedule. Even five minutes daily dedicated to conscious self-care can make a vital difference to your mood and overall wellbeing!
Resolve to make peace with minor irritations causing slight anger/frustration in order to prevent this building up and contributing to stress - take a smooth pebble that sits comfortably in the palm of your hand, close your eyes and squeeze the pebble hard for about a minute or two, imagining all your emotion being projected into the stone. Then very slowly begin to release your grip and rock the pebble around in your palm and make peace with it, gain for a minute or two. Why not keep a pebble on your desk in work so it is always to hand - it can double up as a paperweight.
The best, simplest and most effective method of boosting your mental wellbeing - but you might not like this suggestion - is about 45 mins of (somewhat) aerobic exercise, at least three times a week. You don't have to go to a gym, wear lycra and watch MTV. You just have to put your sweats on, get out of the house and power-walk for (ideally) about 2.5-3.0 miles, or round the local golf course. You get fresh air, you have some time to yourself, you can put on your headphones and a nice upbeat playlist. You will 'burn off' residual stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) and generate lots of endorphines (happy hormones). You will also get a little fitter, feel a little better, and it doesn't have to cost you anything except a little time and effort. If you are very unfit then you need to build up very gently to this sort of ideal.
Connect with friends, family, and even strangers - in a cafe, at the bus stop. It's worth getting over any embarrassment as this reduces feelings of isolation and you could make someone's day. Helping someone every day is helpful in itself, and Mental Health Foundation research on altruism has found that doing good does you good.
Relationships can come under a lot of strain over the Christmas period. Apart from the endless lists of things to do in preparation, there's the prospect of spending far more time than is usual with your own or your partner's family. When the excitement dies down, you could be left feeling jaded and out of sorts with each other. Putting your relationship first in the New Year can help to put that right and get you back on track. Make a resolution to spend more time doing things together. How about a walk in the woods, a quiet dinner, a trip to the pictures or just snuggling down in front of the fire with a good film and a box of popcorn? Taking a little time for yourselves every now and then can make all the difference.
As we approach the end of the year, you may often find yourself thinking about the coming new year and how you want it to be different from the one passing. If you have been struggling with your feelings, your relationships, your life, I bet you've been doing a lot of that struggling on your own; caught up in your emotions, thoughts, inner turmoil and feeling unable to really share it with others. You may worry about how it would impact on them, what they'll think about you. But dealing with all that on your own is a lonely business: we can't see our way through our emotional problems without outside help. So choose to do something positive for yourself in the coming New Year. Seek some help and don't suffer alone.