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BRIAN HODDER: Focus on the positive as the new year begins

While technology is great at keeping people connected, nothing has better benefits for our mental health than actually touching and hearing directly from the people we love and care about.
While technology is great at keeping people connected, nothing has better benefits for our mental health than actually touching and hearing directly from the people we love and care about. - 123RF Stock Photo

Today marks the first official workday of the new year and most of us will be returning to our workplaces after celebrating the holiday season with family and friends. Many people will still be recovering from an excess of eating and drinking over the season and others will begin stressing over how they are going to pay for all of the purchases they made over this time.

It isn't surprising that a lot of people choose to make resolutions at the start of the new year and that a majority of them relate to the abovementioned behaviours they engaged in during the holidays. While I am not a believer in making New Year's resolutions, I do feel that it is a good idea to choose something of a positive nature to focus on improving in the year ahead. One thing that we can all benefit from this year is stronger mental health and I'd like to offer a few suggestions to help get you started.

To begin with, consider taking some scheduled time every day to unplug from all of the electronic devices, such as your cellphones, which you may believe make our lives easier. While there are many benefits to such devices, when they are turned on all the time, our brains and attention spans are distracted by the constant pings and other sound effects which draw us away from what we are doing at the time. This can have a negative effect on many areas of our work and personal lives. If you don't believe this is so, see how long you can go without responding to the next text notice or Facebook notification you receive on your phone before you start feeling anxiety about whether you are missing something important or if someone you know will be angry if you don't respond immediately. You might think this is a trivial issue, but such stressors accumulate over time and can have a major detrimental impact on your mental health.

It is incredible the amount of negativity and vitriol that has become part of political discourse in recent years and exposing yourself to this on a constant basis is bound to have an impact on your mood and how you view the world around you.

You may also want to consider, as I will be doing this year, taking a “Trump break” or more generally limiting the amount of time you spend following political news. It is incredible the amount of negativity and vitriol that has become part of political discourse in recent years and exposing yourself to this on a constant basis is bound to have an impact on your mood and how you view the world around you. The investigations and impeachment procedures over Trump's presidency in 2019 have divided Americans and created a very bitter and angry nation which is likely to get worse this year with an election looming. While what happens in politics is very important, the obsessiveness by which this president is covered by the media is unhealthy. There are many more vital things happening in America, and in your life, which deserve more focus and can help lead to a more balanced view of life and the world.

If you elect to follow the two suggestions noted above, spend the time you are taking during this break face-to-face with someone in your life with whom you feel you need to spend more time. While technology is great at keeping people connected, nothing has better benefits for our mental health than actually touching and hearing directly from the people we love and care about. Ask anyone who is in hospital or who lives in a seniors home the difference between a text message and a visit and this will become abundantly clear.

Another easy step to improve your mental health is to get outside daily, preferably for a walk or run and with a friend if possible and breathe some fresh air. We spend too much time indoors. Reconnecting with the physical world has been shown to improve mood and help cope with daily stress.

In 2020, choose to take some steps, whatever they may be, to focus on improving your mental health. It's much easier than keeping to a resolution and it will have so much more benefit in your life.

Brian Hodder works in the field of mental health and addictions. He can be reached at bdhodder@hotmail.com.


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