If you’ve been following the news in 2016, you’ll know that it was a rough year. With the start of a new year, it’s important to reflect back and assess what went well, what didn’t and decide where you want your life to go next. It doesn’t take wishing and dreaming and coasting on cruise control though, in order to create the life you want, it takes a lot of mental toughness, self-love and discipline. Luckily Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services shares some key ways to get mentally fit for the new year so you can move forward successfully.
How to Get a Mentally Fit Life
Look around at your surroundings. If you have junk in your drawers, a messy car, cluttered countertops and cabinets full of stuff you don’t even use, then you know it’s time. You need to clear the clutter. Dr. Hafeez says that cluttered spaces reflect a cluttered mind. If you want to wipe the slate clean and allow room for new people and opportunities, you must have a clear mind. Dr. Hafeez also says that many of her patients who describe themselves as anxious, stressed or even depressed say that they feel better once they start clearing up their physical space.
Dr. Hafeez also helps people overcome body image issues and says that aiming for a smaller attainable win doesn’t leave your self-esteem shot where self loathing and depression can sneak in. She advises setting a reachable daily goal of walking 10,000 steps per day. There are many step-counting apps that help to measure how much you walk which does add up quickly! (see my fitbit post!)
Eat mind-boosting foods
Being mentally fit also has to do with how well our minds work. Mental fitness can easily shift with an improved diet which helps with memory loss or the ability to concentrate or focus. “Research finds that along with other benefits, foods rich in omega-3’s such as fish and nuts as well as those full of antioxidants can help to protect the brain from memory decline,” says Hafeez. Some brain boosting foods include salmon, blackberries and blueberries as well as dark chocolate, avocados and sunflower seeds.
Over the last year, adult colouring books have gotten to be very popular and for good reason too! Dr. Hafeez says that colouring requires total focus on the present and the repetitive motion of colouring provides relief from stress and anxiety by entering a meditative state. “Not everyone can sit still and breathe for 15 minutes a day, but they can certainly find time to colour. It’s a fun way to achieve mindfulness and shake off the day,” explains Dr. Hafeez.
Apologize and Forgive
A fast way to mental fitness is forgiveness. “Carrying around resentment and guilt wears us down and can lead to serious illness such as cancer or stroke. If you experienced a tough break up, divorce or the 2016 political climate led to arguments and lost friends, reach out to apologize and seek forgiveness and move on. Remember: forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone a hurtful behaviour… forgiveness frees you and the other person by making it easier to move forward”.
Learn something new
Challenge your brain by learning a new language, how to cook, paint or do Tai Chi. Pick something you think would be interesting or useful to learn and learn it. If you’ve avoided cooking your whole life, learning the basics will serve your brain well. According to Dr. Hafeez, “the more we can activate the cognitive functions of our brains, the better our short and long-term memory and hand-eye coordination will be”.
Now that you have all of these tips, what are you going to achieve in the year 2017?
Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.