10 Mental Health Resolutions That May Help Your Clients in the New Year
As a mental health professional, you are always guiding clients to make improvements, and it isn’t always easy. New Year’s is a great time to push for bigger changes for better mental health. Many people feel more inspired and motivated at this time of year to actually take steps to improve. Use that momentum and some carefully chosen resolutions and goals to help your clients go into next year with more hope and lasting, positive changes.
Any time is a good time to improve your mental health. But for many people, January 1st is a good opportunity to really take action. There are several things your clients can do to make mental health a priority next year. Start with individual needs and challenges and create goals they can be successful in achieving throughout the year. Before making resolutions, though, consider that there is a right way and a wrong way to do it.
Setting goals for improving mental health is a great way to improve wellness in the coming year. But resolutions can backfire and cause more harm than good. People tend to set goals for their New Year’s resolutions that are neither realistic nor reasonable. Then, when they inevitably fail it can be damaging to mental health, causing anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem.
Avoid goals that are too big, unrealistic, and absolute. Instead, focus on small changes that you can achieve. Make resolutions about the process of change, not a big, pie-in-the-sky final achievement. For instance, instead of resolving to take control of depression, set small goals for daily changes that will eventually help reduce depression symptoms. Here are some ideas to get you started in helping your clients set resolutions for good mental health in the coming year.
1. Start a Gratitude Journal.
Studies have proven that being actively grateful in your life improves mental health. One study asked participants to keep a daily journal. One group was instructed to write about what they were thankful for, another to write about daily irritations, and a third to write about anything that impacted them that day.
Those who recorded gratitude were happier, more optimistic, and generally felt better about their lives. Benefit from gratitude with a simple, daily journal. It doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes a day to get a significant mood boost.
2. Ask for Help.
This is a simple goal, but one that is very difficult for many people. Humans are social creatures, and we benefit from living in social groups, supporting each other, and relying on one another’s strengths. But for some reason many of us find it hard to ask for help, especially for mental health issues. Help your clients to resolve to rely more on other people and to be supportive in return.
3. Learn How to Meditate.
Meditation is a powerful tool in the struggle for better mental health. Meditation helps improve well-being by focusing your attention on the present moment. It provides a new perspective, helps manage stress, reduces negative emotions, and helps manage mental illness symptoms. Anyone can meditate and benefit from it, and it doesn’t have to take more than ten minutes.
4. Love Yourself As You Are Now.
Change is difficult, and while striving for steady improvement is healthy, remind your client that it is a process. Happiness and satisfaction with who oneself is is not going to magically appear with achieved goals. If your client struggles with self-loathing or low self-worth now, it won’t necessarily improve by hitting a goal.
Ask your client to list their positive attributes as part of a daily gratitude journal. Alongside the things they are grateful for in each day, include what they like about themselves. Over time, they will have a better appreciation of themselves as individuals—right now, not future, better selves.
5. Eliminate What Causes Stress.
Stress is a major factor in mental health. Some degree of stress is good. It pushes achievement. On the other hand, too much stress can cause physical as well as mental health issues. Statistics indicate that adults in the U.S. are experiencing increasing levels of stress and that this is detrimental to mental health.
Learning how to manage stress in healthful ways, such as through meditation or exercise, is important. But to really get to the root of the problem, help your client determine what stresses them and to eliminate at least one or two of those sources. For example, if their job causes significant and harmful stress, help them set goals for job searching or learning new skills to move into another career.
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6. Add Exercise to Your Life.
One of the most powerful things anyone can do to improve mental health is to be more physically active. Exercise benefits mental health by reducing anxiety and depression; by providing an effective way to cope with stress; manage difficult and traumatic memories; and by improving sleep quality.
Help your client set reasonable, stepwise goals for more exercise. Being active outdoors should be part of the goal, as being in nature can also provide mental health benefits. Make sure your clients understand that this doesn’t have to be a big change. Just a daily walk outside can provide huge benefits immediately and over time.
7. Disconnect From Social Media.
Social media can be a positive tool for connecting with others, but it can also be detrimental to mental health. If your client spends too much time on social media sites, they may suffer from comparing their lives to those of others, from a fear of missing out, or from a general dissatisfaction with their own lives. Too much social media can trigger anxiety, depression, and other symptoms. Help your client set reasonable limitations on using social media.
8. Drink Less Alcohol.
Whether your client struggles with a substance use disorder or not, they can definitely benefit from drinking less. Alcohol consumption can trigger mental illness symptoms, worsen symptoms, and also cause a range of negative emotions from depression to embarrassment and shame after a binge.
There is a strong connection between mental illness and substance abuse. About 37 percent of people who misuse alcohol also have a mental illness. And many people diagnosed with mental illnesses drink too much or use alcohol as self-medication. Help your client set some goals for reducing alcohol use in the new year for better overall health.
9. Try Something New.
Resolutions don’t always have to seem like work. They can be fun and also benefit your client’s mental health. Push your client to learn a new skill, try a new hobby, or just aim to try more new things in the coming year. Trying new things brings variety to life but also helps improve self-esteem and confidence.
10. Be Kind to Yourself.
As your clients work on resolutions and goals for the coming year, help them also resolve to be kinder to themselves. Failing at resolutions is one reason they can be more damaging than beneficial. Emphasize to your clients that this isn’t about perfection; it’s about consistent, positive changes over time. Help them make kindness resolutions, such as taking one day off per week from a diet or other difficult resolution or to forgive themselves when they slip up on a goal.
New Year’s resolutions have the potential to help your clients improve their mental health. Resolutions and goal setting are powerful tools for self-improvement. They can also go off the rails and cause damage. As a mental health professional, you can help your clients learn to set and achieve resolutions in a positive, beneficial way.
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