New Year New Start!

Published on: 26/12/21

Happy New Year! Most of us are fortunate to be entering 2022 in a more positive place than 2021, meaning this New Year is a tempting opportunity to reflect, take stock, and make changes that will help us become the best versions of ourselves. However, for many people, New Year’s Resolutions can be a tough act to keep up, with an astonishing 90% fallen by the wayside by mid-February.

Why are resolutions and New Year goals so hard to keep? Often we set ourselves up for failure by setting goals that are vague, unrealistic, or heavily influenced by what we believe others expect of us. And when we do ‘fail,’ we’re left feeling disappointed and even guilty- the opposite of the achievement and feel-good factor we were aiming for. However, with a little help from the experts, you can get your brain on board for a positive 2022.

The Science Bit

To really take care of ourselves in the New Year, psychologists advise we should focus on making small positive changes. Focussing on how we positively interact with others or changing our inner voice can help cultivate positivity and improve overall mental health.

When we are positive, either with a sense of purpose at a goal, or the satisfaction that comes from achieving it, dopamine floods into the body. This hormone hero not only improves our mood, triggering feelings of happiness, but also activates the learning centres in the brain, enabling us to be more engaged, creative motivated, energetic, resilient and productive

In other words, choosing an achievable, positive action that taps into this dopamine lift will also help you keep your promise to yourself- win:win! And we’re not talking climbing Everest or besting the Times cryptic crossword, just small steps, done consistently. For example, by practising two minute mental exercises for 21 days in a row, you can actually rewire your brain, training it to be more positive and productive.

Start Training That Brain (With No Weights In Sight!) 

Here are the top five expert-recommended tips to give you a head start to better mental health in the next 12 months:

1. Practice gratitude. Short on time? Practicing gratitude, simply by taking a few minutes to acknowledge 5 things you’re grateful for every day is one of the quickest and most effective ways to increase happiness, manage depression, and cultivate resilience. Writing it down is even better- plus that pad by your bed is a great reminder until it becomes habit. It doesn’t matter what you write, no one else will see it- this is for you.

2. Keep a journal. If you can turn 5 points of gratitude into a few lines covering your day, even better. Completely personal and private, this could be logging a positive experience you had during the day, or a quick-fire brain dump of all the negative thoughts swimming around in your head. Clearing out those negative niggles and taking a moment to reflect on the positives we often overlook is a sure-fire key to better quality sleep.

3. Move that body! Our physical and mental wellbeing are intrinsically linked; staying reasonable active can help improve mental health and help avoid depression. We’re not talking aiming for the London marathon or even join the gym, but finding a form of exercise you enjoy and can do regularly- a short walk, bike ride with friends, a YouTube yoga class.

By reframing your goal from the vague: “I want to lose a stone” to “I will walk around the block every day”, you focus on the achievable action, making the desired outcome much more likely to follow on.

4. Unplug
. A bit. Growing research reveals a negative correlation between screen time and psychological well-being. Most of us know that Instagram, Facebook, and other social media apps are highly edited ‘best bits’ if not totally unrealistic, but it’s hard to avoid comparing yourself and feeling inadequate. Try dialling down your social media reliance, and you may well find your mood and stress levels improve. You might also find that you have more time to dedicate to the real-world activities and people that actually bring you joy.

5. Nourish friendships
. Human beings are social creatures, so being around or actively interacting with other people is critical for your health. Take time to this year to connect and deepen relationships with the people in your life that inspire you and nurture your soul. If this can be getting out into nature or attending something that engages your brain rather than just propping up the bar, then even better!

In It for the Long Term

So, armed with your wellness brain hacks, you’re ready to step into a positive 2022. But remember, this isn’t about passing some goal, it’s about small steps to bolster your mental wellbeing, and make any resolutions you might want to pick a win:win situation.

The hard part can be making new habits stick, so use strategies like leaving yourself post-it notes or setting reminders on your phone. Try and set a small series of actions rather than one vague or daunting huge goal, and remember to pause to reflect and congratulate yourself on each step achieved.

Importantly, don’t beat yourself up; slip-ups are bound to happen on the route to reaching your goals. Don’t throw in the towel just because you forgot to journal one night because you were tired, or skipped a gym session. Sometimes life just gets in the way, you’ll soon get back on track!

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