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For many people, the beginning of a new year means new beginnings, or new initiatives to improve their lives.
But the cold and darkness of winter often amplify feelings of anxiety and depression, and it’s also the time when the excitement of the holiday season begins to wane.
Beyond seasonal mood swings, recent years have also seen a decline in Americans’ mental health amid the coronavirus pandemic. We found that the percentage of Americans who think they’re “good” is at an all-time low.
Columbia University psychiatrist Ravi Shah offers advice on how to prioritize mental health as 2023 begins.
look back on last year — but don’t be too negative
Shah points out that as the end of the year approaches, people may look back at their lives over the last 12 months and see if they’re heading in the direction they want.
“Thinking with a therapist is very helpful and wonderful,” Shah adds. In fact, it is common for interest in treatment to rise in the first few months of the year.
But there is a difference between reflecting and ruminating, or getting caught in a negative thought loop. According to a paper published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, rumination can “interfere with an individual’s ability to engage in effective problem-solving and adaptive behavior.”
To break out of this cycle, psychologist Margaret Wellenberg suggests that by recalling good times, recalling good memories, and physically relocating yourself to a different environment, you can I suggest cultivating positive thinking.
Relieve the Pressure of New Year’s Resolutions
People often have New Year’s resolutions to try to make positive changes in their lives at the beginning of the year.
But failing to keep the resolve can lead to shame and guilt, says Shah, and it may not help. . “And I think they are ready for all kinds of challenges.”
Instead, he suggests setting goals.
Goals can be broad, like trying to eat healthier. Then you can set specific goals within that goal, Shah says. For example, three times a week he can try a vegetarian diet. Later, you can evaluate how well you’re working toward your goals by counting the number of weeks you complete each goal.
“Why I love the word goal, have you ever met someone who achieved 100% of their goals?” Shah tells Changing America. “Not so many people. The point of goal setting is to say where you are going and how to start moving in that direction.”
And since January is an arbitrary point in time, there’s no need to pressure yourself to do this in January, Shah says. Instead, we suggest revisiting your goals at another time, such as July, and readjusting if necessary.
fighting seasonal depression by going outside, socializing, and doing light therapy
Seasonal Depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder can start affecting people as early as October and November.
However, seasonal depression or winter melancholy can peak in January, when the holiday excitement fades and it is cold and dark in many parts of the country. You may feel depressed and lethargic in a dump, as in the case of .
Lightbox therapy, when used appropriately, can help improve symptoms of seasonal depression.
Getting out of the house can also help, but it can be difficult to persuade yourself to do so, says Shah. It’s really tempting to want to bend down.”
But spending time outdoors and interacting with other people can make you feel better when you don’t, he says.
Consider talking to a therapist
Talking to a therapist to process your emotions around the end of the year or in the aftermath of the holiday season can be healthy, says Shah. In some cases, getting help from a therapist can even save your life.
If you find yourself ruminating, not wanting to get out of bed, or thinking about hurting yourself, it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional, says Shah.
“We always say that pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong,” Shah says. “Thoughts of wanting to die or commit suicide are the mind’s way of showing that something is wrong.”