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Developing a Plan for Good Mental Health in 2022

These simple practices can help you take control of your mental health.

Key points

  • You have the ability to influence your mental health. Simple and practical strategies can help you improve it in the new year.
  • Allowing yourself to have negative thoughts, consistently looking for purpose, and staying focused on the present can boost mental health.
  • It's also helpful to be thoughtful about your commitments and avoid overcommitting during the pandemic.
Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash
Source: Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

You don’t have to look far to find articles about the mental health crisis in the United States right now. And now that we’ve moved into the new year, there are a lot of articles giving advice about how to take care of our mental health in 2022. While it’s good that there’s attention being given to mental health, a lot of people get stuck when the advice doesn’t feel practical or seems hard to apply.

But there are simple, practical ways to address our personal mental health, most of them involving prevention and early intervention. Learning how to recognize the signs that we are experiencing anxiety and depression before it becomes an emergency is key. There is hope when we feel like we have some control over how to handle the stress in our lives. We can’t control how long the consequences of the pandemic will loom, or the way that others handle their circumstances. But there is a lot that we can do to manage difficult emotions and take care of ourselves and our mental health.

Allow yourself to have negative thoughts and feelings

While we don’t want to live in a negative state of mind, it’s natural to think negatively sometimes, to feel sad, or to be angry. When it feels like the world is falling apart around us, it would be more unusual to try to convince ourselves that everything is OK. Tell yourself it’s OK to feel down, shed some tears, and be honest with yourself about how you’re feeling. That’s the first step toward positive change.

Do small, good things for yourself

We hear a lot about self-care these days. It can feel overwhelming to think about what that means and how to accomplish it when there is so much going on. But self-care doesn’t have to be a grand gesture that takes a lot of time or costs a lot of money. It can be something as simple as giving ourselves quiet space to clear our heads, drinking some water, or taking a short walk. Self-care also includes taking care of ourselves in relationships. So stepping away from a difficult conversation or seeking out a trusted friend for support can be a great way to be good to yourself. Taking care of ourselves isn’t selfish, it’s necessary, because if we can’t take care of ourselves it will be much harder to take care of others.

Look for purpose in every day life

Feeling like our life has purpose and meaning can have a positive impact on our emotional well-being. Helping others can be very rewarding, but we don’t always have time to volunteer for a cause. There are lots of ways to provide support. It could be lending an ear to someone who is upset, taking groceries to an elderly neighbor, or shoveling their sidewalks when it snows. It could be making a delicious meal for your own family or friends. But helping other people reminds us that we are all in this together and we all need help right now.

Be thoughtful about what kinds of commitments you make

Don’t put too much stuff on your plate right now. Even if you’re a very active person, now is not the time to overcommit because there are a lot of things that could happen unexpectedly, like illness or closures. Be mindful of what you say yes to and choose things that you really care about. Avoid making casual commitments.

Stay focused on the present

Find enjoyable or positive aspects of each day. You might identify something good that happened, even if it’s talking to a friend or drinking a good cup of coffee. Try to recognize and savor those moments of pleasure and positivity. When you do look ahead, focus on what’s happening right now and in the near future because those are the things you can control and plan for. In these uncertain times, it can be more encouraging to plan for shorter durations rather than guessing what things will look like a year from now.

The most important thing is to remember that you can proactively influence your mental health. Practicing these strategies will help you exert some control over how you’re feeling and allow you to feel more hopeful and positive.

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