Don't forget your mental health when making resolutions for new year

Resolutions should include mind and spirit

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comDecember 31, 2012 

As a new year dawns, people look to the gym or the Zumba studio to whip the physical self into shape, but the mind and spirit also need tending.

"The number one thing is letting go of unrealistic expectations," said Elaine Greer, director of pastoral care at Central Baptist Hospital. "We tend to put so much pressure on ourselves."

Remember, she said, to take time for yourself, especially if you tend to be the kind of person who is always doing for others.

"There is always something to do and somebody that needs something," she said. "If we don't fill our spirits up, we are going to be empty and not be able to help other people."

She suggests scheduling time for a massage, or even an hour to read a favorite book, in the same way you schedule other activities. "If we put it on a calendar," she said, "most of us will keep that calendar."

And, she said, be aware of the people you surround yourself with. Put yourself in a positive place as much as possible.

"We like to tell our children that they need to be careful who they spend time with," she said. "We need to do the same.

"Negative people who are complaining that nothing is ever right" should be avoided, she said. That kind of bad attitude can be contagious.

Here are other suggestions from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Mayo Clinic to improve your mood and mental health.

Rest: Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Being well-rested helps you think better so you are prepared to handle problems as they arise.

Share: If you have a worry, share it with family or friends. The simple act of sharing can lighten a burden. Talking also might help you see things in a new way.

Breathe: Shallow breathing is a typical stress response and can cause light- headedness and, in the extreme, hyperventilation. When you're stressed, a few good, deep breaths can go a long way toward calming the mind and body.

Invest: Invest in important relationships. Let people know that you appreciate them and that you're glad they're part of your life.

Be grateful: Make a commitment to practice gratitude daily. Be grateful each day for one thing that enriches your life. Let gratitude be the last thought before you go to sleep and your first thought in the morning.

Live in the moment: Savor the small pleasures of today instead of worrying about the past or future.

Forgive yourself: Everyone makes mistakes. They are just an isolated moment in time, not a permanent reflection on you as a person. Acknowledge the mistake and move on.

Focus: Yes, you can text, email and talk on your smartphone while doing myriad other things, but all that flurry can leave you reeling. Try focusing on one task at a time, do it well and then go to the next thing.

Move: You don't have to run a marathon. Just try to get in a good walk and stretch each day to improve circulation and general well-being.

Reward yourself: Find a way to reward yourself for keeping stress at bay. Maybe it's a watching an extra-long show on TV, resting on an extra-soft pillow or eating a tidbit of extra-dark chocolate as a treat.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog:

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