‘Stop dieting’: New Year’s resolutions for your mental health

Every new year we set about making New Year’s resolutions. Usually they’re related to our physical health: going on a diet, joining a gym or drinking less. But what about our mental health?
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Mental health is central to every part of our lives: how we interact with loved ones, how productive we are at work, and how we feel when we are alone. So here are six things science says you can do to improve your mental health in 2018.

People who appreciate their bodies, irrespective of their body size, tend to have better mental health, better sexual functioning. Photo: Stocksy

1. Stop dietingA lot of people make strict and prohibitive New Year’s plans toslash their kilojoule intake. But there’s evidence such resolutions justdon’tlead to weight loss, and instead restrictivedietingtypically leadsto long-termweight gain.

People with poor body imagetypically avoidsocial outings, physical intimacy, and exercise. Poor body image is also linked todepression,anxiety, and araft of other mental health problems. Self-loathing doesnot make us thinner, but it does make us mentally unwell.

People often avoid fully participating in life while waiting for their ideal body. Make 2018 the year you stop doing this. People who appreciate their bodies, irrespective of their body size, tend to havebetter mental health,better sexual functioning(andmore orgasms), andhappier romantic relationships overall. If your goal is mental (or physical health), stop focusing on trying to be thin, and instead work on self acceptance.

2. Eat broccoliThe more we learn about the relationship between the gut and the brain, the more evidence we get about the role of nutrition in mental health. People who consume more fruits and vegetables havelower levels of depressionthan those who eat less fruit and vegetables.

Nutritional improvements over time (a balance of vegetables, fruits, grains and proteins) canimprove your mental healthand quality of life. Eating leafy greens and vegetables in the broccoli family (cabbage, cauliflower, kale) may evenhelp slow cognitive decline.

3. Join a groupSocial isolation is a better predictor of early death than either diet or exercise, and asstrong a predictor as cigarette smoking. Making new social connectionsimproves mental health, and being embedded in multiple positive social groups helps us cope with stress, and is linked toreduced depression and anxiety.

If you have a dog, start going to your local dog park. If you like board or card games, why not see if there is a group of people who get together to play near you? You can find hundreds of groups to join onapps like meetup.

4. Move your bodyI know exercise is an obvious one – a part of you wants to skip over this resolution. Don’t. Exercise is one of the most effective ways of reducing depression or anxiety, improving sexual function, andmaintaining cognitive function.

It doesn’t matter if you’re walking around your back yard or running a marathon – any sort of movement is going to help you. Adhering to an exercise plan can be hard. Aim to identify exercise you find enjoyable, that gets you out socialising, and that allows you to build competence.

Exercise that does any of these things iseasier to continue doingthan exercise done with the goal of improving appearance.

5. Reduce screen timeSo how will you make time to exercise? Reducing screen time is one answer. This doesn’t mean you have to give up your favourite show – without Arrested Development or Game of Thrones things rightly seem bleak. But excessive screen time is linked topoor sleep quality, as well asdepression. Screen time should be part of a happy life, not a substitute for it.

6. Seek help if you need itWe often shroud mental health problems in a cloak of invisibility, hiding them from sight, and assuming we’re going to be able to “snap out of it” by ourselves. The truth is sometimes we need help, and the smart, strong decision is to seek it. Visit your doctor and get on a mental health plan, or go to beyondblue苏州模特佳丽招聘.au, or call Lifeline (13 11 14).

Ultimately, you should pick goals that genuinely reflect who you are and what you want, and aim to break them down into concrete, specific steps (specify the “when”, “where”, and “how). The research suggests doing this willmaximise your chances of success.

This article originally appeared onThe ConversationFiona Kate Barlowis a Senior Research Fellow, The University of Queensland.

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