It’s not surprising to say that 2020 was A LOT (kindly putting it). We individually went through some serious stuff. Collectively as a nation, as a world, we mourned, we lost, we feared, we hurt -- we were even scared to leave our homes.
But as 2021 came, hope for many of us arrived too. We made resolutions and promised ourselves that this year would be way better than last. But some of us are still trying to thrive in 2021 and understandably so.
There isn’t a “How To Come Out of a Pandemic Thriving'' manual, but in this blog post we hope the 5 tips we share will help improve your mental health this year and that they will start a spark inside you. With consistency and determination, 2021 could very well be the year you THRIVE.
Imagine if there was a person you could talk to about whatever was on your heart and mind without feeling judged or scorned. Imagine, too, that this person would not tell a single soul about the secrets and struggles you shared. And this same person also listened intently and offered sound advice -- with kindness.
That’s the relationship many have with their therapists. There are many online therapy sites that offer zoom sessions, phone sessions and some therapists are beginning to do in person sessions again too.
“Talking to someone who provides a nonjudgmental space to address different issues can have positive effects,” Annie Varvaryan, a licensed clinical psychologist in California, says. Some benefits of therapy can help improve communication skills, empower you to develop fresh insights about your life, learn how to make healthier choices and develop coping strategies to manage the “new normal.”
How many hours was your screen time up in 2020? Actually, don’t answer that! But really, we spent many hours working from home on our laptops, attending school on our ipads, playing video games, learning new dances for our TikTok’s -- basically we spent a lot of time on devices. Mother Nature is ready for us to explore again! Try a new hiking trail, ride your bike to the beach, head to the mountains to ski -- whatever the weather, just get outside, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy Mother Nature’s natural benefits.
Boosting your mood and lowering anxiety are two ways being outdoors could be great for mental health. Many people experience a more positive mood and better cognitive function too. Their memory improves and so does their ability to focus. Research points to 120 minutes a week as the ideal minimum of time to spend outside. Participants who did this were more likely to report good health or well-being. Whoo-hoo!
Self-care can take many forms. It’s not just a spa day or a stay-cation. Practicing self-care is simply doing any activity that helps promote your own physical, emotional and mental health. It can be reading, using a bath bomb in your bath, getting a cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop, watching a comedy special, really anything that makes you feel taken care of. Your personal brand of self-care will depend on what works best for you, what you enjoy, your energy levels and your personality. So have fun learning what that is and then go do it!
Self-care benefits include better physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being. Research suggests self-care promotes positive health outcomes, such as fostering resilience, living longer, and becoming better equipped to manage stress. All really great things!
‘Dear Diary, Today was _____” fill in the blank. Sound familiar? If you had a diary when you were younger you probably enjoyed writing out whatever was on your teenage heart. Everything from teen crushes to dreams of the future. Then you may have signed your name, secured it with a golden lock and tucked it under your mattress for safe keeping. That weightlessness after writing it all out is unparalleled. Well guess what, you can still do that today without the golden lock and key! That’s what is now called “journaling” or “expressive writing.” Yep. This age-old practice is not only effective, it is a powerful tool to help us creatively and mentally.
The release or relief is what most of us experience after journaling. Journaling not only helps us manage our stress, it can reduce it as well. Buh bye, monkey on your back. It can also help us cope with moments of depression, work through loss or change and improve our overall mood. Getting it all out on paper is also an opportunity to identify negative thoughts and work towards positive self-talk and love. A quick Google search will show that the benefits of journaling are vast and very different for everyone. Notable, studies have consistently shown that journaling may improve aspects of your mental and physical health.
We cannot underestimate the power of meditation. This powerful practice helps alleviate stress and numerous studies have shown that regular mediation is not only helpful for depression and anxiety, but regular meditation can modestly lower blood pressure, according to an American Heart Association. Don’t know where or how to start meditating? Calm and Headspace are two popular meditation apps. Lebron James himself even leads a meditation on Calm’s youtube page and it’s good! You can also find a wide range of other meditation videos on Youtube too.
Meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect your thoughts and it’s been proven to help benefit the immune system, lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure and can protect you against heart disease. A recent study found that meditation and mindfulness have incredible effects on the immune system. The results highlighted that meditation, 1) Increased the number of CD-4 cells, which are the immune system’s helper cells that are involved in sending signals to other cells – telling them to destroy infection. 2) Reduced markers of inflammation, high levels of which are often correlated with decreased immune functioning and disease. 3) Increased telomerase activity; telomerase helps promote the stability of chromosomes and prevent their deterioration (telomerase deterioration leads to cancer and premature aging).
When it comes to your mental health, it is important to surround yourself with people who support and can help you in times of need. It may feel like you need to go it alone and figure things out for yourself, but asking for help or resources doesn’t make you weak, it makes you human! Whether you speak with a therapist, a loved one, or a combination of all the above, there is strength in having support, and your mental health will benefit from it. BTW, in case no one has told you today, you’re doing a really great job. You are a survivor and the world is really freakin awesome with you in it.