To many, a new year marks a fresh start and a new opportunity to set and achieve goals – some call it resolutions others call it a commitment to oneself. Regardless of what you call it, I’m all for it! I’d just like to advocate that any other day of the year works just fine too, not solely January 1. With that said, I thought it a good time to throw a few tips your way to help those who are looking to set some new goals for themselves in the coming year. But as a disclaimer, I’m no expert or know-it-all on the matter, but here are some tips and tricks that I personally use or have found from other sources, specifically the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), that are useful. Of course, feel free to Google (anything) “tips” and you’ll find a plethora of information, but as long as you find something that works for you, your life, and your life goals – it’s all good!

The importance of self-care

In today’s day and age, we are inundated with so much that affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally, and so it is so very important to practice self-care. Self-care simply means “taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health,” according to the NIMH. They continue to explain: “When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy. Even small acts of self-care in your daily life can have a big impact.” So what are some of the things that you can incorporate into your life to add self-care? The NIMH lists these activities as a few:

• Exercise: It seems that exercise helps us in so many different ways, it’s almost like a catch-all! The NIMH states that just engaging in 30 minutes of walking per day, for example, will not just improve your health but it’ll boost your mood, too. And the NIMH adds the tip that if you can’t engage in 30 consecutive minutes don’t worry! Small amounts of exercise add up.

• Eat healthy: It seems that exercise and eating healthy go hand-in-hand, so of course having a balanced diet is the next logical tip. It’s important to not just eat healthy, but to eat regular meals and to stay hydrated. The NIMH states that “a balanced diet and plenty of water can improve your energy and focus throughout the day.” They also advise to limit your consumption of caffeinated beverages… well, there goes my third cup of coffee!

• Sleep matters: The NIMH would like to advise us to make sleep a priority and to stick with a schedule in order to ensure that we’re get-ting enough sleep. That seems pretty do-able.

• Relax: This isn’t something to scoff at, some folks struggle to relax with everything that life throws at them. So the NIMH advises to try to incorporate a relaxing activity into your regular schedule. If you need help, there are so many programs and apps available that help with meditation, breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, or a combination.

• Goals and priorities: This is one that really works for me, because setting clear goals and priorities helps me to stay on target and to feel accomplished and to avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and/or anxious. The NIMH states that one should “decide what must get done now and what can wait. Learn to say ‘no’ to new tasks if you start to feel like you’re taking on too much.”

• Practice gratitude: Now, this is a topic that we’ve touched upon in a few issues of this magazine. Our writer, Mary O’Neill has written on this subject a number of times and for good reason. The NIMH states: “Remind yourself daily of things you are grateful for. Be specific. Write them down at night, or replay them in your mind.”

• Focus on positivity: I have to share that this one is one of my favorites because our mindset and attitude can dictate so many parts of our lives. The NIMH advises that we should not just identify but challenge our negative and unhelpful thoughts, which also helps us frame and focus on the positive ones.

• Stay connected: We are not alone on an island, and it is important to remember that. Mary O’Neill has written about this in some of her gratitude articles and it often advised how important it is to keep, maintain, and foster relationships. The NIMH states that we should “reach out to our friends or family members who can provide emotional support and practical help.”

What works for me, may not work for you – and vice versa

We are all different, but we may also share similar traits, likes or dislikes. Don’t ever assume that there is one cure-all solution – we shouldn’t paint ourselves with a broad brush stroke. It is important to keep that in mind and not to feel pressured when something doesn’t work out. It’s important, instead, to find what works for you, and then go from there.

One of the most important things that the NIMH states is: “Self-care looks different for everyone, and it is important to find what you need and enjoy. It may take trial and error to discover what works best for you.” They elaborate that when it comes to various parts of our lives, including mental health, it is important to understand and identify our triggers, and from there know what coping mechanisms work to help you manage the challenges you face.

So as we enter this new year and some of us use it as an opportunity to set some resolutions and or goals for ourselves, it’s important to do so in a way that works for you, both in the short- and long-term. Throughout the years, a lot of people and organizations like the NIMH have reiterated the importance of setting achievable goals – but don’t think I’m discouraging you from those big pie-in-the-sky ideas and goals. I for one love a big goal and pie-in-the-sky ideas. But I advise to just mix in some smaller, more easily achievable goals. And remember to take time to take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself. We can achieve anything we set our minds to, it’s just finding the steps and methods that work specifically for you that is important to help you achieve anything that you set your mind to. Happy 2023 and may all of your goals and dreams be achieved and come true!