It is always the right time to work on improving your mental health, but New Year’s gives us the additional benefit of looking back on an imperfect year and imagining how we can make the next one better. Good mental health is easier to maintain when your life is in balance, and you cultivate positive habits to keep your lifestyle healthy.
Over the coming year, you will certainly experience some good times and bad times. By keeping events in the proper perspective, you’ll be much better equipped to avoid the emotional ‘roller coaster’ of high highs and low lows, favouring instead a smoother and more sustainable ride forward.
As we bid farewell to an eventful 2018, here are some tips to help prepare you for whatever may come in 2019. It may be hard sometimes to keep your cool and roll with the punches, but by adopting the habits listed below, you’ll be better prepared to handle setbacks – and use each one as an opportunity to grow.
Spend more time to take care of yourself, both physically and mentally
We all need happiness in our lives. Endorphins and dopamine are available naturally through all sorts of pleasurable activities, and perform a vital function for each of us. Participating in happy moments helps lower anxiety and depression, by increasing the brain’s access to “feel good” chemicals.
Complications can occur when we fail to activate these reward systems naturally. Some people turn to drugs or alcohol to get the chemicals their bodies crave. These quick fixes can lead down a dangerous road, so it is much better to spend an extra hour each day on things that genuinely make you happy.
This isn’t a licence to be lazy, however. The key idea is to be happy, not just to do things that are easy. Regular exercise will make you feel much better, while also keeping you healthy – even if you might not look forward to it at first. By contrast, you might be tempted to sit in front of the TV or play video games, but these activities rarely bring meaningful or lasting joy.
Be social, take a cooking (or dancing) class, play sports, climb a mountain, visit a new place, treat yourself to a massage – these types of activities will also let you expand your horizons, which is essential for maintaining perspective. If your career is your life, then one bad professional outcome can have you feeling like your life is over. By diversifying your experiences, your eggs are no longer all in one basket. A bad day at work is much easier to handle if you’re already looking forward to a weekend football match or a trip to the beach.
Acknowledge your faults and stop being defensive
Life can sometimes feel overwhelming. Competition in both social and professional spheres is often unforgiving, and it is highly stressful to have to defend yourself in front of your colleagues, while also trying to get along and make friends with them at the same time. The emotional effort it requires will exhaust you sooner or later, but fortunately there is a solution.
Most of the time, there is no need to defend yourself. You will be more mature – and be seen as more mature – if you voluntarily take responsibility for your mistakes, and try to learn from them.
At bottom, what we want from our colleagues is respect. When something goes wrong, there are two general responses you can have. The first is by being defensive: “It’s everybody else’s fault, but not mine!” The second is more generous: “I made that mistake. It was my responsibility to check my work, but I didn’t. I’ll make sure to do it the right way next time.”
The second response will earn you more respect, and also take a lot of anxiety off of your shoulders, because you will no longer need to pretend to be perfect or try to impress people who are criticising you. You can instead spend your energy on actually doing a better job, and being a more cordial colleague who is easier to work with. The reduced tension in the workplace – or at home, if you follow a similar principle there – will defuse conflict and bring greater harmony to your life.
Reduce your screen time
We are genuinely lucky to be living in the digital age, where information and connectivity are always at our fingertips and there is no need to ever be bored again. But when studies reveal that increased screen time (and especially the frequent use of social media) leads to greater overall unhappiness and dissatisfaction in life, we should all take notice.
Screen time in general comes with its own fundamental faults. We often treat it like it is a real substitute for ordinary human interaction, but at best it is a simulation. Life is meant to be lived directly; this is what our bodies are built to do. Digital screens change our perception, as though we experience life through a glass window. The touches, smells, and tastes are all gone, flattened into pixels as we sit and press buttons on a tiny screen.
Screen time also fools our eyes into thinking it’s daytime even when it isn’t. It can be hard to sleep if you’ve been looking at a screen late at night; for an improved night’s rest, stop using any device at least 30 minutes before going to sleep. And for more peaceful days, avoid looking at your devices the first thing in the morning, as well as during meals and social occasions.
Social media brings added concerns, as it tempts people to compare themselves with their friends online. Jealousy often results when we see photos of friends having a great time and looking good, while we feel that our lives are a disappointment by comparison. In addition, the arguments and negativity that often accompanies the social media experience can be emotionally harmful.
Despite these issues, social media carries an additional danger: Many people find themselves addicted to it. The constant notifications are always tempting to click on, as we search for validation and approval from our peers. For many, the compulsion to receive attention through social media can cross over into a form of behavioural addiction that is difficult to stop.
By deciding to switch your device off once in a while, you’ll realise once again that you hold the power, and you are in control of your own life – and your own happiness – once again.
Consider going to a mental wellness retreat
The above ideas can help you orient your life in a more positive direction, but sometimes the challenges of life may nevertheless feel too large for you to handle well at any given moment. If so, taking a break from your usual routine may be the right move.
A tropical retreat in a relaxing area, such as Bali or any of the more tranquil islands in Thailand, could put you in the right frame of mind to receive the physical and mental relief you need. A quality retreat should offer holistic wellness activities and plenty of opportunities for exercise, along with mental health education and personal counselling.
By attending a well-organised retreat, you’ll do activities you enjoy, giving your brain the chemicals it needs to run smoothly. You can also use the opportunity to disconnect from the stress of the workplace as well as the online world, and rediscover the satisfaction of a clean lifestyle. This new focus on your own wellbeing can help you build healthier cognitive patterns, allowing you to develop the mental tools needed to keep your life on the right course.
Contact The Dawn to learn more
If you or your loved one is struggling with a mental health concern, we encourage you to reach out to us right away to find out if our mental health retreat in Thailand is right for you. Contact us to learn more or call +66 63 048 4877 and schedule a free consultation.