CLEVELAND — A Cleveland Clinic psychologist says people can improve their mental health this year by making a few small changes to the way they think and behave.
“Our anxiety level increases when you worry about things way too far in the future that you can’t control and we don’t know what the rest of the year is going to bring,” said Dr. Susan Albers, a New York Times best selling author on mindfulness.
“So mindfulness skills are a way of bringing yourself back to the present, and breathing exercises help to calm the body and the mind, and there’s some free apps like Calm, Headspace and a Cleveland Clinic app. These are going to help you to put these skills into practice.”
Albers said increasing vitamin D levels can help too.
“There is a relationship between a low vitamin D level, and feeling depressed and the blues and many people have not gotten a lot of vitamin D this year, because we get it from the sun and we’ve been stuck inside,” she said.
“You could get vitamin D from eating vitamin D rich foods like eggs, orange juice. Mushrooms are a great source. You can also consider a vitamin D supplement or a light therapy box. These are very inexpensive. You can put it next to you in the morning for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn it on, and it increases your melatonin and your serotonin level and this is going to help to brighten your mood.”
Albers recommends buying a journal and processing feelings of trauma and loss.
She also recommended people adding more movement to their day.
“Research indicates that movement is one of the best ways to improve your serotonin level, and many people have not been able to get to the gym or get outside. But it doesn’t have to be that complicated,” Albers said.
“If the word exercise makes you cringe a little bit, reframe that to think about movement, and it can be walking your dog or dancing around with your kids in the kitchen. Anything that is going to get you moving again,” Albers said.
Though it may be difficult at times, Albers stresses the importance of getting a good night’s rest.
“Research indicates between seven and nine hours is optimal. Anything below or above has been associated with some mental health issues or challenges because our sleep resets all of our systems,” Albers said.
“It helps us to make better decisions. The next day, it impacts how we eat. So getting optimal sleep is one of the best things that you can do for your mental health,” she said.
Additionally, Albers said to learn how to say no this year.
She said this can lead people to feel guilty or feel like they need to explain themselves.
But your time is valuable. Learning to say no to things in a kind but firm way is a great way to improve your mental health this year, Albers said.