Watching the ball drop, raising a glass, and hugging loved ones at midnight the moment 2023 becomes 2024 can feel a little magical, even if your rational mind knows the new year is a human invention without scientific significance. But the distinct before/after of starting a new year can be hugely significant for us humans— because it helps us create meaning and make sense of our lives. 

The New Year’s holiday is a valuable chance to reflect on the past and think about how our futures should look. Hence the New Year’s resolution, those promises we make to ourselves that this is the year everything will be different with our bodies/love lives/bank accounts. But if you’ve been around the sun a few times, you know that resolutions don’t usually stick. 

So this year Talkspace is asking you to do away with your list of resolutions and make the one that matters most: To prioritize your mental health. Because when you do what it takes to feel and function your best, you’ll find that everything else gets better too—work, relationships, finances, physical health, or whatever improvements would make life a little easier or more fulfilling. To help you go “head first” into the new year, Talkspace therapists provided these four pieces of simple, do-able advice to get you started.

4 Ways to Put Your Mental Health First in 2024

1. Set an intention

While we did just say to skip the long list of resolutions, it helps to set an intention, a single word or phrase that captures how you want to feel or what you hope to achieve. “Intention-setting is about creating a mindset shift to bring about more broad positive changes, by defining a guiding principle that you want to live by,” says Bisma Anwar, LMHC. Your intention could be a single, simple word that’s weighted with meaning for you: Calm, joy, presence, purpose. Or it could be a phrase, like “my peace is my priority” or “healthier and wealthier.”

While resolutions are targeted goals that are either achieved or broken, intentions are broader ideas. “Intention setting doesn’t try to hold you to a specific outcome or behavior change,” says Bisma. “Changing the conversation from a goal to a guiding idea means there’s no risk of failure.”   

2. Heal the bruises

While the new year can feel like a fresh start, it might not be so easy to leave behind any pain or trauma you’ve experienced in the past—nor should you necessarily try. “Chances are there have been some losses or hardships in 2023 but remember that losses make you stronger and smarter and without experience we can’t tap into our knowledge or wisdom,” says Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C. Instead of trying to “move on” do what you need to do to process hard experiences and mourn losses (working with a therapist can really help here). 

It’s not that you need to dwell on the past, but “give your hurts their due so you can heal and keep going,” says Keohan.

3. Feel the feels

Prioritizing your mental health means making space for your emotions—basking in the ones that feel good and sitting with the unpleasant ones too. “Don’t run from your feelings, savor the good and endure the bad or uncomfortable,” says Keohan. “Acknowledge and identify the difficult emotions, and remind yourself that they are temporary. Don’t let numbing be an option, because even the hard stuff is worth feeling.” 

4. Be a good friend to yourself

Think about your favorite friends in the world—how do you talk to them, how do you treat them? Make sure you are giving yourself at least the same level of respect and value. That starts by stopping negative self-talk. “Make sure you start from a place of affirmation and positivity rather than negative self-talk and criticism,” says BIsma. ‘If you embrace yourself from the start you will be in a better space to add on things that will enhance and improve your life, rather than correct something you think is inherently broken.”

Giving yourself the same level of love you show to others is a fundamental part of supporting your mental health, and will result in tangible improvements in the rest of your life as well. “Nourishing a positive and supportive relationship with yourself is not only integral to your mental health and personal development, it will improve the quality of your relationships with others,” says Talkspace therapist Famous Erwin, LMHC, LPC. “It forms the basis for a more strong, motivated and satisfied life.”  

Go Head First With Therapy

Prioritizing your mental health in the new year is a lot easier when you commit to therapy. Connecting with a therapist for ongoing support can help you put the advice above into practice, and identify patterns that might be preventing you from living up to your full potential of self-love and life satisfaction.

If you’re already a Talkspace member, be sure to check in with your therapist regularly. The simple act of sending your therapist a message can be a form of self-care, because getting your thoughts out of your head and into words helps you process. Not a Talkspace member? Join today and get $100 off your first month with code HEADFIRST (valid through 1/31/2024). Or check to see if your insurance plan covers Talkspace—many do for a typical copay of $25, often less.

The post 4 Ways to Improve Mental Health in 2024 appeared first on Talkspace.

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