By Lindsay Wallace, Executive Director
Every year, millions of people set New Year's resolutions with the intent of improving their overall health and well-being. The most common ones center around losing weight and improving finances but as you make your list for 2017, don't forget about your mental health. Need a few ideas on where to start? Here are five ways you can improve your mental health recovery skills in 2017:
1. Learn to recognize your triggers and use healthy coping strategies
Maintaining recovery requires a great deal of self-awareness. If you know and are better able to recognize your triggers then you can practice the healthy coping skills you have learned to prevent crisis. One example is putting together a puzzle when you start feeling anxious. This strategy is helpful because it clears your mind and requires you to focus on something other than yourself. Click here for more coping strategies you can incorporate into your daily life.
2. Practice compassion for yourself and the process of recovery
With recovery comes occasional setbacks. It's important to recognize this truth and be kind to yourself. As you move through the day, offer yourself words of encouragement when that critical voice emerges in your head. For example, when you feel pain in a difficult situation try to give yourself advice, then honor and recognize that your pain is acceptable. When you practice re-framing negative thoughts into positive thoughts, you build greater self-compassion.
3. Engage in meaningful activities
If you find something that is meaningful to you it can bring a sense of purpose to your life. When you find purpose, your sense of self-worth expands and you feel better about yourself. Additionally, when you engage in meaningful activities you build relationships with others and nurture your sense of belonging. All of these factors contribute to a better quality of life. What constitutes a meaningful activity is unique to the individual but some examples include supported employment, internships, volunteering, or finding a creative outlet.
4. Snuggle with a pet
Research shows that pets can help reduce anxiety, stress, and feelings of loneliness. In many ways, they help us to live mentally healthier lives. They get you up and moving and even foster a sense of purpose since they rely on you for food and water. If you don't own a pet, you can still reap the benefits by visiting a local shelter.
5. Find strength in numbers
Sharing your challenges with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution, make you feel less isolated, and promote a sense of belonging. You can seek this kind of support through peer-run programs. There is evidence that these programs improve quality of life, coping skills, and social support networks. NAMI Dane County programs are built on this kind of recovery model. Interested? Try one of our peer or family support programs in 2017.