The New Year is all about starting anew, ditching the bad habits in the past and cultivating new healthy ones. There is a particular focus on the physical, eating better, going to the gym (especially after the carb-fueled holidays), but mental health should not be neglected. Mental health has increased in importance in recent years, and this trend should continue Here are some ten modes of thinking to get you started.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
This is an expression I am sure you've heard last year and the year before that, but it is always a good reminder. Lately, I have been huffing across campus kicking at clumps of snow in the wake of yet another negative response to my email inquiries after a job. Although I am worried about paying for my next tuition bill, I have to step back and remember to be grateful for the opportunities I have had thus far. When stressed and overwhelmed, always remember there is something, someone, in your life to be grateful for.
Don’t Think “It Could Be Worse”
Along the same lines as the previous point, sometimes thinking “It could be worse” can help diffuse a situation or put things into perspective. Other times, especially when heard from other people, it can seem to trivialize your current situation and only frustrate you more. Instead, focus on the positive of the situation — how great you will feel after this exam is over, how things seem to fall into place when you least expect it. Or once again, simply think of something you are grateful for.
Treat Yourself as a Friend
Thoughts concretize into emotions and even physical states. If you beat yourself up, your body will suffer, even if just slightly enough to soil your day. Don’t compare yourself to others, and don’t expect yourself to be perfect. Don’t let thoughts into your mind that are damaging — if you wouldn’t say it about your friend’s appearance or their work, don’t think it about yourself. And if you do, acknowledge the mistake and try to reorient your thoughts to a more positive stream of thinking.
Accept Your Humanity
You’re human (at least I assume.) Humans make mistakes. They hurt others, whether intentionally or not. They fall over and get back up, then fall over again the next day. No one is perfect, and don’t treat yourself any otherwise. Apologize for or acknowledge your mistakes, then move on and try to do better. There is no reason to keep beating yourself up over things you cannot change or that have already happened.
Be in the Moment
Be mindful of the present. It is so easy to get caught up in the rush of life, to think about your plans for dinner and how you need to get your biology pre-lab done before midnight tonight, well during the pre-lab you keep thinking about that boy who let you borrow a pencil and smiled, did it mean anything? And if it did, that means you could get a date to the semi-formal in February, which means you would have to cancel plans with your mom, speaking of which you should really call your mom — and on and on, and before you know it the day is over and you can’t even sleep with the noise of your many thoughts. Being mindful of the present moment will help you slow down and focus better.
Take a Break
To be mindful, you need to take a break. Put your phone down, put that face mask on, and be alone with your thoughts for approximately 10-15 mins (as the back of the face mask package says). Focus on gratitude, a mantra, or simply the silence.
Cultivate Your Spirituality
Pray. Download a short guided meditation off the internet. Go to church with a friend. Take a quiet nature walk. Read scripture. Do some breathing exercises. Take a yoga class. Do what makes you feel in tune with yourself, the world, and the universe.