As 2018 comes to a close and you begin to consider what 2019 may bring, you’re likely deciding how you want to improve this year. While prioritizing your health, weight, finances or social life can create valuable change in your life, don’t forget to protect your mental health through the process, especially if you happen to fall short on some of your goals.
Julie Manuel, MSEd, LPCC, NCC, psychotherapist at Kettering Behavioral Medicine Center, says the best way to do this is taking time to evaluate where you are and aspire for achievable goals.
“Sometimes we get a bit ahead of ourselves,” Julie says. “Rather than setting yourself up for failure, ease yourself into your goals by setting realistic expectations.”
It’s important to start with goals that, with a bit of extra effort, you know you can meet. This might mean that instead of deciding to start going to the gym six days a week, you might start with two and work your way up.
If you do find yourself missing the mark on what you tried to accomplish, approach the situation with compassion to avoid spiraling into a pattern of negative self-talk.
“Tell yourself it’s okay and that you forgive yourself,” Julie says. “Reevaluate and put things into perspective. Know that it could be worse, but that you can also do better.”
Julie says a big part of surrounding yourself with kindness is creating community. Consider gathering a group of your friends or family to discuss each other’s goals, talk about where you can hold each other accountable, and reassure each other if you don’t accomplish everything you set out to do.
With positive self-talk and consideration for your mental health in mind, it’s still okay to focus on those other resolutions, as long as you do it in a way that increases your mood and promotes a healthy self-image.
“It’s totally fine to set those goals. Introducing some more positive things in your life is important,” Julie says. “The biggest thing we have to focus on is increasing positivity toward ourselves and our own perspective.”
However, if you do want to put your focus in 2019 on improving your mental wellness, Julie says being thankful is the best place to start.
“Practicing gratitude is so vital,” she says. “There’s always going to be some kind of negativity—from too many meetings to world disasters. Practicing gratitude is the number one key to a better, more positive self-image and self-perspective.”
Julie suggests starting a gratitude journal and dedicating time in the morning and the evening to being thankful and writing down those things for which you’re grateful. If journaling isn’t your style, consider setting an alarm or two on your phone to remind you to stop throughout the day and reflect on what you have. Whether it’s something as small as having shoes on your feet or as big as a family vacation, gratitude can help you cultivate a mindset of positivity to carry you through this year.
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