Five ways to support your mental health in the new year

Prioritizing physical health as well as mental health with these five self-care strategies from Mental Health First Aid can help to improve overall well-being.

A woman lacing up a set of sneakers.
Photo: Pexels/Cottonbro Studio.

The start of the new year brings resolutions, goals and intentions to improve health behaviors and create healthy habits. The amount of time that it takes for a new behavior to become habit varies and depends on the person, situation and behavior. What’s more important, however, is taking the first step towards living a healthy life.

Some people see the new year as a fresh opportunity to focus on their physical health. They may focus on behaviors such as eating better by following a nutritional diet, getting active by signing up for a gym membership or losing extra pounds after the holidays. In addition to physical health resolutions, incorporating mental health strategies as part of your new year’s resolution is beneficial to overall health and wellbeing.

Some of the most common health conditions in the United States are mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime and someone’s risk for developing a mental illness increases when they live with a chronic condition such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer. Likewise, having poor mental health is a risk factor for the same chronic conditions. The connection between physical health and mental health is evident and, ideally, that connection should be reflected in our health goals as well.

While it is important for someone that has been diagnosed with a mental illness to receive treatment by a mental health professional, there are things that a person can do regularly to support recovery and mental well-being. Mental Health First Aid, a program offered by Michigan State University Extension, suggests that self-care strategies are important for maintaining mental and physical health. Consider including one or more of the following five supportive strategies in the new year:

  1. Practice self-acceptance. Use the new year as an opportunity to embrace that person in the mirror instead of trying to change something about yourself. Practice extending empathy to yourself and loving you for YOU.
  2. Move your body. Exercising for at least 30 minutes every day is as good for our mental health as it is for our physical health. Go for a walk, have a dance party or sign up for a fitness class. Most importantly, engage in physical activity that you enjoy!
  3. Be grateful. Practicing gratitude or giving thanks in every day moments can help better manage challenges when they arise. Try a simple gratitude exercise such as keeping a gratitude journal or regularly expressing thanks to those in your life.
  4. Put yourself first. Think about what self-care means for you and put a plan into action. Take time for yourself every day to re-charge and refresh. This might look like catching up with a friend over lunch, enjoying your favorite cup of tea or taking ten minutes to sit and do nothing.  
  5. Take Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid is a national training program that teaches adult participants how to recognize and respond to mental health challenges. Participating in a course can help you to learn more about mental health, risk factors, stigma and available resources. 

Just as important as taking care of your physical health with good intention in the new year, prioritizing mental health year-round is crucial, too. Since 2017, Michigan State University Extension has been offering Mental Health First Aid training for adults. Ninety-seven percent of our participants say that they can better recognize signs of a mental health crisis following training. If you or someone you know is interested in attending a training in the new year, please visit our Mental Health First Aid website for upcoming dates, registration information and cost.

Michigan State University Extension offers additional health programming that may be beneficial in helping you to meet your health goals for this year, including Stress Less with Mindfulness, Personal Action Towards Health (PATH) workshops, and Tai Chi for Arthritis.

If you or someone you know needs immediate mental health support, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat

Did you find this article useful?