With the start of a new year, it’s important—no, it’s necessary—to self-reflect. That means taking the time to look back at last year, assess what worked and what didn’t and decide where you want to go next. It takes a lot of mental toughness, self-love, and discipline to create the life you want. Think about the alternative: Simply coasting along on cruise control reacting to life can lead to victim mentality and stagnation. And no woman wants that, especially no brazen woman. And especially if the year has been hard.
The fact is, you can work out your body as hard as you want, but you need to get mentally tough, too. How? Follow these steps.
How to Get Mentally Fit in 6 Easy Steps
1. Clear clutter.
Look at your surroundings and be honest about what you see. Is it a mess everywhere you step? Are you feeling like the situation is hopeless? If you have junk drawers galore, a smelly car, countertops and cabinets that are full of stuff you don’t even use, it is about time to clear the clutter. The bottom line is that cluttered spaces reflect a cluttered mind. If you want to wipe the slate clean to allow room for new people and circumstances that serve you, you must get your mind clear.
KEEP IN MIND: If you’re anxious, stressed or even depressed—which is so common at this time of year—you’ll feel a ton better when you’ve created some mind room by clearing up your physical space.
2. Exercise a little bit.
When it comes to exercise, you should aim for smaller attainable wins. People set high fitness goals for the new year and then fall off after a month or less. This leaves their self esteem shot which is when self loathing and depression can sneak in. What you should do is set a reachable daily goal of walking a certain number of steps, say 10,000 steps, per day. There are step-counting apps available to measure how much you walk and they add up quickly.
KEEP IN MIND: When you see accomplishment on a daily basis and you stick with it, you’ll feel energized and your mind will soar in a positive direction.
3. Eat mind-boosting foods.
Mental fitness also has to do with how well our minds work. A loss of memory or the ability to concentrate or focus can easily shift with an improved diet. Research finds that along with other benefits, foods rich in Omega-3, such as some fish and nuts, as well as those full of antioxidants can help protect the brain from memory decline. So eating more fish such as salmon as well as fruits such as blackberries and blueberries to your diet can help.
KEEP IN MIND: The good news is that brain boosting foods include delicious options such as chocolate, guacamole (avacados) and sunflower seeds.
The adult colouring book bandwagon is a good one to jump on. That’s because colouring requires total focus on the present. 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 per day, but they certainly can colour. Just look at kids.
KEEP IN MIND: This is an absolutely a fun way to achieve mindfulness and shake off the day.
5. Apologize and forgive.
A fast route to mental fitness is forgiveness. Carrying around resentments 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 perhaps the political climate led to arguments and lost friends, reach out, apologize and seek forgiveness, and move on. Remember, forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone a hurtful behaviour.
KEEP IN MIND: Forgiveness frees you and the other person, making it easier to move forward.
6. Learn something new.
Challenge your brain by learning a new language, how to cook, paint, do Tai Chi or dance. Pick something you think would be interesting or useful to learn and learn it. If you avoided some activity for your whole life, learning the basics will serve your brain very well.
KEEP IN MIND: 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.
Dr. Sanam Hafeez is a NYC-based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at Columbia University Teachers College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens.