Looking at the rollercoaster of the last few years and the forthcoming transition from 2022–2023. Here are some national psychological resolutions that will help improve our mental health and well-being for 2023.
The way to predict the future is to look at the near past; over the recent years, we have faced The Cost-of-Living (COL) Crisis and a series of existential crises, including Brexit, Covid, and the war in Ukraine. We have and continue to handle these situations and will continue to do so in the future.
As a society (herd), we work extraordinarily well to survive and thrive through challenges, and human society is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Belief and faith in the future make avoiding stressful and frightening events easier. Still, much personal growth is available through overcoming struggle and adversity. Celebrate your resilience and connection to loved ones, family, and friends.
The key to helping yourself psychologically is to recognise that there is little you can do about the events. Your focus needs to be what you can influence, generally yourself and your immediate family.
Live more in the moment
Don’t get caught up in events that have not yet occurred, and don’t allow yourself to dwell too much on the challenges that lie ahead, and it is too easy to forget to enjoy what you have right now. Live in the here and now, focus your mind, and decide what you choose to dwell on. Being mindful of what you nurture in your mind is one of the greatest well-being tools.
Build better financial habits
Money and stress go hand in hand; creating good money management habits will help ease anxiety and put you in a better position to deal with the financial pressures before us with food and energy inflation. Make a budget, cut costs, clear debts where possible, make an emergency fund and stick to your financial plan.
Improve your well-being – implement new routines such as regular exercise (yoga is a good example, by stretching our bodies, we also help calm our minds – invest in valuable time), eating healthily, sleeping, and resting properly, and staying hydrated. Remember, health and healthy routines are the keys to psychological well-being.
Build your network
A strong social network can be beneficial for our mental health and well-being. Reconnect with old friends and family and take the time to make new connections. Friendships can help us feel more balanced and connected, and our friends help us get things in perspective and manage life’s problems.
Own your personal power
We all have the personal power to decide how we respond emotionally to life events. Still, often we forget that and give away our personal power to events that don’t matter and that we can’t control. We can act from an internal child, adult, or parent.
The child is our capacity to be emotional, spontaneous, and creative; the adult is our capacity to see reality and learn from it, and the parent is our capacity to make even difficult choices for the greater good. Over the coming year, look at which aspect of self-functioning you choose to use for which aspect of life events is most appropriate and engage with your whole self.
Don’t rely on motivation alone
If you genuinely want to change something in the New Year, then relying on motivation is a good way to ensure it doesn’t happen. Motivation is an emotion that can come and go; like any emotion, it tends to be useful for short-term gain in difficult tasks, like finishing a race. To genuinely change, you need to develop habits.
Habit forming behaviours
It is more likely to happen if we do things out of habit rather than through conscious choice or motivation. That is because of what is happening in our brains. If we repeatedly do an action, it forms neural pathways. Anything repeated is viewed by the brain as important, and it, therefore, automates it by building neural pathways. If you keep a new behaviour in place for three months, it will be a habit.
To make the change, we need to start small. It sounds simple, but it’s the biggest mistake people make regarding the change. Let’s say you set yourself the goal of becoming fit next year; that’s too big, and you will quickly lose your way. It’s better to set yourself the goal of being more active in your daily life by walking more till you build up to, for example, 10,000 steps a day. After you have mastered that goal, set a new one, such as joining a class in yoga or at your local gym.
Hold yourself accountable
If you want to achieve something, you will find a way to make yourself accountable for achieving it. The most effective way to be held accountable is peer pressure, so if you want to lose weight, join a group of people trying to achieve that; if you want to run the marathon, then join a running group.
Other things in a similar vein that achieve accountability are the use of apps that we update, especially those connected to a group. We are rewarded for what we achieve in this approach; the weight loss group claps and cheers us on, the other runners in the group give us positive feedback, and the social activity rewards us.
“Celebrate what you achieved in 2022 and set realistic, achievable goals for the coming year, don’t rely on motivation alone; ask for support from others to achieve goals where you can, build from small change to bigger change, and just keep going until it becomes a habit and once you have mastered one habit add the next on to lead to your bigger end goals.”
Noel McDermott is a psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience in health, social care, and education. He has created mental health services in the independent sector.