It's a new year, but in many ways, we're carrying the same burdens in 2021 as we carried in 2020, and the mental and emotional weight can create a dark cloud that can dim the hopes of a brighter future.
We spoke with a clinical psychologist about the top seven ways we can take control and improve our mental outlook in 2021.
No. 7 – Connect with nature
The Japanese call connecting with nature "forest bathing." It can improve your mood and connect you with you.
if you don't have time to get away from it all, says Dr. Lori Warner, a clinical psychologist and behavior analyst at Beaumont Children's Hospital.
Technology can bring nature to you. "Watching shows about nature or having forest sounds on apps that you can listen to, even those types of things can reconnect and calm you," she said.
No. 6 – Information diet
The flood of information about the pandemic and the economy can overwhelm any of us. Controlling when and how much information we consume about the virus can help lift our mental outlook. Think sips of information, not gulps.
No. 5 – Intentional gratitude
Warner said our minds are problem-solving machines and are really good at picking out and holding on to problems. We have to be intentional about finding balance.
"Little kids are great at this. They notice every little thing and appreciate it," she said. "We can be like that. WE can sort of have that wise mind of a child and pay attention to our world that way."
We can also express gratitude by giving to others during these tough times.
No. 4 – Connect with others
Many of us have been making special efforts to stay connected during the pandemic. Zoom fatigue is real, so maybe it's time to find another way to reach out.
No. 3 – Mental health is physical health
Improve your mental health by working on your physical health, and it's not just by working out. Eat better, get more sleep and stay hydrated, as it can give a real boost to your mental and emotional outlook.
No. 2 – Connect with your values.
In these stressful times, who do you want to be? Keeping that top of mind will guide your actions and your response to pandemic stress.
No. 1 – Practice mindfulness
That means using breathing, guided imagery or other methods to relax your body and lower stress. It's a method you can use anywhere to stay in the moment.
You don't need to set a lot of time aside to practice mindfulness. You can be walking, doing dishes, having a conversation.
A lot of times when people feel stressed, some kind of bodily response really helps. Take that breath or you can squeeze your hands like you're squeezing lemons. Anything that works to help you reconnect to the moment is key.