Every new year that we witness in good health is an opportunity to start on a new slate and make plans for a happier and more fulfilling life. It is important to appreciate that there are a million and one ways to improve our mental health in the new year and beyond. Here are 10 simple and basic steps that should serve us well along this journey towards optimal mental health:
- Live in the moment: Time is a finite commodity, and we can never be sure of how much we have left at any point in time. Thus, a happy new year comprises of 12 happy months, or 52 happy weeks or 365 happy days. So realistically speaking, if we can focus and live in each moment, and strive to make each day as happy and as joyful as we can, the building blocks for a happy year will be established. Good wishes and plans for the year should rather be focused on daily goals, weekly deliverables, and at the turn of the year, we should be able to reflect back and be truly happy for how far we have come.
- Let go of past frustrations, hurt, and anger: It never helps to hold on to grudges and hurts….it poisons our system and spreads bile and bitterness which sucks up any joy and happiness from our present situation. Let go of previous baggage and discard them. Learn from your mistakes, but don’t dwell on the negative emotions….otherwise, you will be stuck in the rut and will not make progress.
- Set realistic goals: You will be setting yourself up for failure if you set unrealistic targets. Aim for modest but incremental progress and you will be just fine.
- Work hard: Hard work is the critical lynchpin for success in almost every human endeavor. If you only worked hard on the days you felt like it, you are likely going to fall flat on your face with respect to deliverables. So roll up your sleeves and work hard and smart, through the year.
- Stay Focused: Distractions in today’s world are numerous and unrelenting. From the constant messages on our phones, emails, calls, the tv or internet, social media etc. Unfortunately, we need to de-clutter, clear our heads, and stay focused on the things that really matter and will make us happy and productive. Such as work, family time, exercise, sleep etc.
- Invest in human relationships: Stephen Covey introduced the concept of the Emotional Bank Account that we all maintain in our everyday relationships. We need to invest by ensuring we are making more deposits (things that make others happy with us) than withdrawals (actions or inactions that make others unhappy, angry, disappointed or hurt). We need a healthy emotional bank account with others, so we can cash in, during our low moments.
- Avoid drug abuse: There is a strong temptation, especially among youth, to experiment with drugs and take them for recreational purposes. This is dangerous and should be resisted. When addiction sets in, it is a difficult habit to break free from.
- Self-Discipline is key. In all the psychological theories of human development, the highest level of attainment is self-actualization and gaining mastery over our base instincts (primitive urges). If you want to achieve a happy and fulfilling life, you need to be disciplined and not be overly indulgent in your base instincts. Every sphere of our life requires discipline. Acquire it.
- Improve your emotional intelligence: Emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand yourself, to recognize your emotional reactions to situations on the one hand; and to also value and understand the emotions of significant others. Even more importantly, it is the ability to deploy this understanding of self and of others, to practical use, in a way that promotes the best chances of having a successful, happy, and truly worthy life. Where everyone in your sphere of influence, feels valued, understood, and respected.
- Stay humble: Ultimately, when push comes to shove, none of us will leave this world alive. And the sun will not refuse to rise again, neither will the world stop because you are no longer alive. Essentially, none of us is truly that important or irreplaceable. So don’t be arrogant. Stay humble and take it easy. Do your best, keep learning and enjoy the journey of life….while you are still alive.
Conclusion: This is wishing us all a happy, fulfilling, and emotionally healthy new year. Let’s enjoy every single day that we wake up. Be truly alive and present in all our relationships and be happy. It’s no one’s job description to make you happy….you owe yourself that duty. Refuse to be upset by the action or inactions of others and jealously protect your emotional tranquility.
Tribune Article for the column “Your Mental Health & You”
Thursday, 5th January 2023