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Embracing the Importance of Mental Wellness in the New Year

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Embracing the Importance of Mental Wellness in the New Year

It’s a new year and many of us are hard at work on the New Year’s resolutions that impact our physical health – exercising, quitting a bad habit and more. But, along with physical wellness, checking in with our mental wellness is an important aspect of overall health.

What is Mental Wellness?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines mental wellness as, “A state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

The Global Wellness Institute notes that mental wellness is more than just mental health because it involves aspects of emotional and social wellness as well. “Mental wellness is an internal resource that helps us think, feel, connect, and function; it is an active process that helps us to build resilience, grow, and flourish,” according to the Institute.

“While it may be tempting to set big lofty goals, oftentimes the small steps are what push us forward and help us maintain those positive habits that benefit our mental wellness.”

Mental Wellness Tips

For those who make New Year’s resolutions and want to include boosting their mental wellness among them, Melissa Baker, MS, LMFT, the director of integrated health at JFCS’ Glendale Healthcare Center, says that it’s all about small steps.

“To have new goals stick, I recommend making all of the goals very small and doable,” Baker says.

Baker describes thinking of mental wellness as, “Awareness in either direction, good or bad. What is your body trying to tell you?”

Some simple ways to blend your mental wellness and other goals can include:

Embracing Mindfulness

Per the Mayo Clinic, “Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”

While it seems like a lofty goal, Baker notes that embracing mindfulness can begin as simply as finding a mindfulness app that works for you and making it a part of your daily routine. She recommends taking time to find apps that promote breathing exercises and meditation – and if one doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to find another that’s a better fit.

If an app isn’t for you, practicing simple daily breathing exercises or taking moments out of your day to meditate or reflect uninterrupted can go a long way for boosting mental wellness.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Rest

“Rest is so important, and it can look different to different people,” Baker says.

What helps you to feel refreshed and well-rested? From making sure you get a full night’s sleep to disconnecting from electronics after a specific time, rest is vital to being at your best self.

Some tips Baker recommends for embracing the power of rest is having a consistent bedtime, limiting the use of technology at night, and setting aside time in your busy schedule to pause and let your body have some down time.

Get Active (But Start Small)

Let’s be honest – many New Year’s fitness resolutions often fall by the wayside after a short period of time. This can often be because the goals are too overwhelming or hard to maintain.

Baker shares that, oftentimes, the key to becoming more active is small and slow.

“Encouraging mental wellness by being physically active can be as simple as a bunch of little tasks to make being active easier and a part of your daily routine,” she explains. “For example, put your sneakers by the door so they’re easy access for a quick walk or trip to the gym.”

Small healthy habits built in daily and over time are likely to be less overwhelming and more sustainable, Baker notes. Need to move more? Instead of pushing yourself to workout daily, start with short walks a few times a week. Want to drink more water? Think of it as a cup at a time. And, of course, always talk to your physician first for personalized advice tailored to you.

“It’s about building healthier, long-term behaviors that stick, not about the numbers on the scale,” she adds.

Be Kind to Yourself and Your Mind

Baker refers to mental wellness as an ongoing journey and actions like mindfulness, rest and exercise are tools in a toolbox to help you stay mentally well so you can embrace each day and the year ahead. Her biggest tip though beyond apps or fitness reminders? To remember to be kind to the person who matters most – yourself.

“While it may be tempting to set big lofty goals, oftentimes the small steps are what push us forward and help us to maintain those positive habits that benefit our mental wellness,” she adds. “Always remember that tomorrow is another day.”