With the start of a new year it is important to reflect back on the prior year, assess what went well, what didn’t and decide where you want to go next. It takes a lot of mental toughness, self-love and discipline to create the life you want. Simply coasting along on cruise control reacting to life can lead to victim mentality and stagnation.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist. She shares key ways to get mentally fit for the new year so you can move forward successfully. In doing so, you don’t have to swear yourself to resolutions and feel like a failure if you don’t achieve them. Just think about the life you want to create and take small steps.
Look at your surroundings. If you have junk drawers galore, a messy car, countertops and cabinets that are full of stuff you don’t even use, it is time to clear the clutter. According to Dr. Hafeez, “cluttered spaces reflect a cluttered mind. If you want to wipe the slate clean to allow room for new people and circumstances that serve you, you must get your mind clear. Many of my patients who describe themselves as anxious, stressed or even depressed say they feel better when they start clearing up their physical space.”
Eat mind-boosting foods
Mental fitness also has to do with how well our minds work. A loss of memory or the ability to concentrate or focus can easily shift with an improved diet. “Research finds that along with other benefits, foods rich in Omega-3, such as some fish and nuts, as well as those full of antioxidants can help protect the brain from memory decline. “Eating more fish such as salmon and add fruits such as blackberries and blueberries to your diet can help. The good news is that brain-boosting foods include delicious options such as chocolate, guacamole (avocados) and sunflower seeds.
The adult coloring book bandwagon is a good one to jump on. According to Dr. Hafeez coloring requires a total focus on the present. The repetitive motion of coloring provides relief from stress and anxiety by entering a meditative state. “Not everyone can sit still and breathe for 15 minutes per day, but they certainly can color. It’s absolutely a fun way to achieve mindfulness and shake off the day,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
Apologize and forgive
A fast way to mental fitness is forgiveness! “Carrying around resentments and guilt wears us down and can lead to serious illness such as cancer or stroke. If you experienced a tough break up, divorce or perhaps the 2016 political climate led to arguments and lost friends, reach out apologize and seek forgiveness and move on. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone hurtful behavior. Forgiveness frees you and the other person making it easier to move forward.
Learn something new
Challenge your brain by learning a new language, how to cook, paint, do Tai Chi. Pick something you think would be interesting or useful to learn and learn it. If you avoided cooking your whole life, learning the basics will serve your brain very well. According to Dr. Hafeez, “the more we can activate the cognitive functions of our brains the better our short and long-term memory and hand-eye coordination will be.”
Plan and prepare more meals at home
Instead of committing to a strict diet, incorporate more home-cooked meals into your repertoire. Research shows that food made at home has less fat, calories, and sugar than meals eaten out, even if you’re not specifically trying to prepare and eat healthier meals.
Set a goal to make one new friend a month
As we get older we tend to get stagnant with our friendships and not reach beyond our formed circles anymore. Make an effort to engage the person you always see at your spin class or pass everyday in the hallway at your co-working space. Bringing new people into the fold can add spice and variety to your life.
Do something that scares you
Dr. Hafeez does not mean putting your life at risk. If public speaking has been a thorn in your side, take a class in it, and they put your lessons to use. If you would love to try snow skiing but have been too timid- take a lesson. Has the travel bug bit you but you don’t have a companion? Throw a dart at a map and travel (safety first) wherever the dart lands. It does not matter what you do, however big or small as long as you try something previously out of your comfort zone. One completed victory will give rise to another.