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Your mental health worth a resolution

Dr. Rachel Bryant

Here’s an idea for a New Year’s resolution: Resolve to have better mental health this year. No, it’s not as sexy as being skinny or rich, but the rewards are far greater. Imagine being calmer, more resilient and more thoughtful. Imagine feeling less stressed, depressed or anxious. Imagine being more honest with yourself, and having more patience with yourself and others.

Imagine having more emotional stamina at the end of a long day so that you can better meet the needs of your children.

Balance is key. Again, not very sexy, but essential to feeling better emotionally. The bills, homework, laundry, misunderstandings in your marriage, and disappointments won’t go away, but don’t let them overcome your life, crowding out any room to take care of yourself. Here are some thoughts to ponder if you are interested in living a mentally healthier life:

1. Recognize that you are a physical, social, spiritual, intellectual and emotional being. For one to feel whole, centered and strong, each of these areas needs attention. Are you sleeping and eating well nearly every day? Is there time for connection with those people who uplift you and make you laugh? Is there time for prayer, attendance at your place of worship or some other way of nurturing your soul? Are you reading, playing games that challenge, or engaging in some activity that stimulates and entertains your brain? While it is impossible to address all areas of your life every day, habitually ignoring even one area will create symptoms of depression and/or anxiety in the rest of your life.

2. Stop and pay attention to what you already have in your life that is good and right. Did your kids hug you this morning? Did you read them a story last night? Did you finish a big project at work? Sometimes we are so busy getting from one task to the next that we have no time to stop and give ourselves permission to savor the delicious moments that truly bring joy.

3. Spend time with your thoughts. This is the most important. Without regular doses of uninterrupted time to think about how you are feeling, what is important to you, where you feel strong, and where you feel weak, without time to reflect, plan, dream and smile about what you appreciate in your life, mental health cannot flourish.

Make this your New Year’s resolution: Resolve to treat yourself the way you want your grown children to treat themselves. Honor your accomplishments, big and small. Spend more time with those who affirm and uplift you. Engage more in activities that make you laugh. Choose an area in which you’d like to experience personal growth. The ultimate question is this: When 2009 dawns, will you be more content?

A final note: If there has been trauma, or if you are hurting and finding no relief, then resolve to get help. There is meaningful medical and mental health assistance that can support you in this step of your journey, until you are ready to continue on your own.

Happy New Year.

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  © 2008 Star-Gazette.

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