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Prioritise your mental health for your New Year's resolution

Look forward to 2024 being a truly great year. Photo: Getty Images
Look forward to 2024 being a truly great year. Photo: Getty Images

Have you set a New Year’s resolution, asks mental wellbeing expert Philippa Saunders. Here are five reasons why it should be prioritising your mental health.

January has arrived, bringing with it the resurgence of those familiar New Year's Resolutions. Exercise more; eat healthier; give up/reduce alcohol; spend less time scrolling on social media. Do any of these sound familiar?

What about a resolution to prioritise your mental health? People typically contemplate it only when an issue or symptom arises. The thing is, mental health is health. We all have it. But what comes to mind when I say ‘mental health’? Do you think about a disorder like anxiety or stress? Mental health is not merely the absence of mental disorders but encompasses emotional well-being, resilience, and the ability to cope with life's challenges.

Great British Life: Make your New Year's Resolution to prioritise your mental health. Photo: Getty ImagesMake your New Year's Resolution to prioritise your mental health. Photo: Getty Images

We still tend to think about it differently to physical health. We take care of our bodies by eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting enough sleep. But we need to be as proactive about our mental health as we are about physical health.

Here lies the crux of the matter: there doesn’t have to be anything wrong for you to look after your mental health. In fact, it’s much easier to create the best possible mental wellbeing when you’re not suffering with symptoms (like stress, anxiety or depression). Just like exercising is easier when you haven’t broken your leg (not sure I like this specific example, but you get the picture.)

What skills do you have to look after your mental health on a daily basis? Think of your brain like a muscle. The more you train and exercise it, the better it becomes.

I’m going to go all out and say that prioritising your mental health could be one of the best things you ever do. And here are five reasons why:

Better physical health

There is a well-established link between mental and physical health. Our psychological processes impact on our physical health and neglecting mental health can have adverse effects. Chronic stress tends to lead to immune-suppression (a less active immune system) and increases your susceptibility to a wide range of illnesses and diseases. Mental health problems have been linked to a number of chronic physical health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and even cancer. Put simply, prioritising your mental health means you can reduce your risk of developing these.

Quieten that inner critic

Talking to yourself in a kind and supportive way is essential for good mental wellbeing, but it’s not something that many people are comfortable or familiar with doing. Or even know how to do. Do you have positive, supportive thoughts that encourage you to achieve whatever you want? Or do you have a little devil on your shoulder, constantly putting yourself down and putting limitations on what you can achieve? Chances are your inner voice isn’t anywhere near as positive or as helpful as it could be. Noticing the way in which you talk to yourself is a key step in making changes in your life. Learning how to quieten that inner critic means you can stop self-sabotaging, reduce stress and unlock your full potential.

Better relationships

Good, solid mental wellbeing is the foundation for nurturing meaningful relationships. Increased self-awareness and understanding why you think in the way you do is the first step. Then, you are more able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see things from their perspective. When you learn to feel more powerful (mentally), you look within for solutions rather than blaming another person. Focusing on your mental health leads to improved communication, empathy and understanding. As a result, all of your interpersonal relationships improve and you can better connect with family, friends, and colleagues.

Great British Life: Quieten that inner critic. Photo: Getty ImagesQuieten that inner critic. Photo: Getty Images

Higher self esteem

Self-esteem is one of the building blocks of your mental health and it’s very important to know how to create it in order to have good mental health. It’s a popular misconception that what happened in the past is responsible for low self-esteem. It does fluctuate throughout life, but this depends on how you process your experiences. In other words, what you believe about your experiences. If you base your perception of yourself almost entirely on external events, your self-esteem will be extremely unstable, and you will not be in control of it, often feeling low if something bad happens to you. If you are a perfectionist, it’s likely your self-esteem is very low at times depending on whether you feel you’re meeting your own standards. Learning how to create high, stable self-esteem that is just based on what you think of you, helps you feel positive, powerful and in control of your emotions. It’s easy and it only takes two weeks.

Resilience and the ability to deal well with life’s challenges

When we have good mental health, we are better able to cope with stress and challenges. Life inevitably throws us curveballs, whether it be illness; a relationship ending; challenges with kids; losing your job or financial difficulty. You might think that you cope when life is going well, but you can learn to feel powerful and confident in your ability to cope when facing those challenges in the future. You can even prevent yourself suffering with mental health symptoms in the future, as well as being able to think clearly, learn new things, and make decisions.

When you prioritise your mental health, you are investing in your overall well-being. You are much more likely to be happy, productive and resilient in the face of challenges. The best news is that it’s a skillset that anyone can learn in just six weeks.

Philippa Saunders is a licensed ThriveR Coach based in Knutsford. You can find her on Instagram @thrive.with.philippa and Facebook @thrivewithphilippa


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