According to Forbes Health research, one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions is to improve your mental health, which even goes beyond weight loss.
But since more than 90% of New Year’s resolutions fail, Michigan Medicine experts share how to make and keep a 2024 resolution to prioritize mental health.
Leah Mills, Clinical Therapist and CEO of Intervene, LLC in Ypsilanti, said the first step is to really understand why mental health is so important to a person’s overall well-being.
Read what mental health entails. Get to know the workings of the mind and its power in your body and in everything you do and say to yourself, your family, friends, co-workers and even strangers, he said.
Next, Mills said, talk to a primary care doctor who can treat mental health issues or refer you to a psychiatrist or therapist for additional help. Therapists can also be found at psychologytoday.com or through your health insurance company’s online portal.
Interview a therapist to find the one that’s best for you, and then start sharing what your desired goals are that you’d like to achieve in hopes of gaining the mental, emotional and behavioral strength to have the life you deserve, Mills said.
Dr. Hany Mekhael, chief medical officer at Beaumont Behavioral Health, said it’s important to remember that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand with poor physical health, which significantly increases people’s risk of developing mental health problems and vice versa.
As we commit to exercise and eat healthy, it’s equally important to commit to staying positive and not neglecting our mental health. Our mental health is as important as our physical health, he said.
Depression can increase the risk of heart disease, obesity and early-onset dementia. Research shows that everything that enters our bodies affects our mental health. Eating healthy has a direct impact on our mental health.
Eating foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, potatoes, and corn, can help improve your mental health because they increase your serotonin levels and cause a calming effect. Healthy fats such as olive oil, grape seed oil, nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados, milk and eggs also help the brain work more efficiently, while trans fats, often found in processed foods, should be avoided.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, it’s important to include protein in every meal because both animal and plant proteins contain an amino acid that the brain uses to regulate mood. Adding whole grains, fruits and vegetables to your diet also helps keep your brain healthy by protecting it from oxidative stress.
Dr. Gerald Shiener, chief of psychiatry at DMC Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, acknowledges that it can be difficult to make healthy choices, especially during the holidays.
Snacks and candy are everywhere, and when you’re full of carbs and sugar, you can get cranky. As tempting as it is, stay in moderation. It doesn’t mean don’t indulge, (just) don’t indulge too much, he said. Also look at how much alcohol you drink. When you’re together with the family and you’ve had a few drinks, old conflicts can resurface and that’s not good for anyone.
Mindfulness practices have also been shown to help reduce anxiety and depression, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is the practice of being fully aware of what is happening in the moment. Claire McGinn, clinic director of Ellie Mental Health in Bloomfield Hills, said an easy way to do this is to identify things that are enjoyable through each of the five senses.
These can be small things, the taste of coffee, the smell of pastries, the feel of a soft blanket. Try to find one thing through each sense and do it for just 30 seconds every day. It’s important to make sure you’re taking these steps in a conscious way, he said.
Close your eyes, try to find a quiet environment, smell the coffee, feel the warmth of the coffee while sipping it. How does the Mug feel in your hand? Where do you enjoy the taste of your tongue? Often they were just passing through; the things we enjoy just become habits. This helps break us out of that cycle and focus on the little joys in life.
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