When it comes to taking care of ourselves, most of the focus is on our physical rather than mental wellbeing. But one resolution that's worth committing to this year is looking after your mind as well as your body.
Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos shares with us her everyday tips on how to prioritise mental health this year.
1. Check in on yourself
So many of us simply get on with life and spend hardly any time being aware of our general sense of wellbeing. Sometimes it is good to be aware how we feel emotionally and as Dr Linda Papadopoulos, psychologist,says, 'check in with ourselves'.
She says: 'I think far too many times we let life happen, so stress and anxiety and poor mental health sneaks up on us. So in the same way that you may physically say, 'I have been eating a lot of crap', or 'I haven't been going to sleep early', or 'I have been scratching my skin with this rash', you need to check in with yourself mentally. This means asking yourself how many times you have sat down and taken a deep breath and been able to share a moment of happiness with a friend or a child. Checking in with yourself is key.'
2. Make sure you are doing the basics
You practice what you read in your self-help books and consistently remember your list of positive mantras, but far too many time we forget the basics of sleeping well, eating well and ensuring you have the correct social support needs.
Linda says: 'Basic needs are important. For example we have always thought depression causes us to sleep less but now we are finding out that lack of sleep causes depression. And we know how good exercise is – it's amazing antidepressant. It's so simple to go for a walk at lunchtime and not eat lunch at your desk.'
3. Make time for things that feel good
It's not just a well-worn cliche: you really do benefit from making time for things that make you feel good. A new study by the London School of Economics discovered that mental health is the biggest single predictor of individual happiness, and the key lies with a loving relationship, friendship and good mental health compared to the money you earn. So why aren't we making more time for the things that make us feel good?
'It's really good to think that we are human beings not human doings. We are obviously really busy and have things to do, but actually having things in your diary, even a couple a month, things that you are looking forward to like movies with your friends or trying out a new restaurant or doing nothing really helps us feel happier. Put things in your diary that you actually want to do and keep to it like a business meeting and be realistic bout when you can do it.'
4. Show some gratitude
There are studies after studies showing that if we train our brain to look for things that we are grateful for, it actually really has an impact on our happiness, says Linda. 'We live in this social media age where everyone has super-duper lives and we are so quick to curse our luck like when we missed the bus. But when we catch it on time we don't say wow that's actually pretty cool I didn't have to wait.
When someone is polite rather than rude, you will always remember the rude person. Look out for things to be grateful for. The more you train your brain to do that, the more accustomed you will be to do that and the happier you will be.