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Taking Steps Toward Wellness in 2021

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Photo by Ian Stauffer on Unsplash

Needless to say, 2020 spared no one of their fair share of challenges. With the New Year finally upon us, we’re all given the opportunity to look back on last year and reflect on the positives and negatives. News Year’s resolutions are a classic way to make an effort toward personal growth; however, they aren’t the only approach to achieving a more positive outlook for the year to come.

In fact, one could argue that putting yourself in the mindset for change is just as —if not more—effective than allowing positive change to affect your mindset for the better. A central theme of the New Year is evolution and fresh starts, so what better place to start than from within?

Step back and reflect

At times, resolutions can have an uncanny way of inspiring unproductive self-criticism and aren’t always the best solution. It’s essential to take a step back and look at the past year before making any serious changes. What did you struggle with? How can you use that knowledge to understand yourself better and translate it into a more successful year?

Be mindful of mental health

Many problems were exacerbated last year. Surveys have found that roughly 40% of adults struggled with mental health in the pandemic, if not as a result of it. Be mindful of the bad and the good because, more often than not, learning to adapt the way you look at it can be one of the best things you can do for your mental health and, thus, the changes you wish to make in the new year.

Check in on the reasons

Motivation is extremely sensitive to our perception of our problems inside and out. As muddled as it can get when we’re in a bad place, a healthy attitude can be extraordinarily helpful. You’re never obligated to view things positively all the time, but at the bare minimum, ensure you’re continually checking if your desire for change comes from the right place.

Be kind to yourself

At the risk of sounding trite, the past year hasn’t treated anyone kindly. It’s a great thing to want to engage in positivity and do better in 2021, but it’s also important to reflect on if you’re doing it for the right reasons. It goes without saying that self-care takes precedence over all else, even if many other things seem to pile up over it. While accepting yourself and the circumstances around you, there’s nothing like doing what you love to take the edge off. First and foremost, be kind to yourself.


References

“How to Prioritize Your Mental Health in 2021: Lifeworks Counseling Center.” Lifeworks, Lifeworkscc, 14 Dec. 2020, www.lifeworkscc.com/how-to-prioritize-your-mental-health-in-2021/.

“New Year Theme for Yourself 2021.” Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Foundation, 14 Dec. 2020, www.mentalhealth.org.uk/blog/
new-year-theme-for-yourself-2021
.

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Want a Stronger Immune System? Start with Self Love

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self-kindness
Photo by Bart LaRue on Unsplash

By Mayumi Elk Eagle, AMFT, APCC

Do you know what to do when you feel uncomfortable or even despaired? If you struggle with indecision, it may come from your childhood.

The U.S. is an individualistic society where children “are encouraged to compete with each other to feel pride in their individual achievements” (Newman and Newman, 2009, p. 69) overtly and covertly. In contrast, there are collectivist societies, where children “are praised for behaviors that evidence responsibility for others” (Newman and Newman, 2009, p. 69).

Does this mean that children in individualistic societies like in the U.S. are not affected by other people? The answer is no. As your brain develops, it is shaped by interactions with your caregivers and other people around you. “Self and community are fundamentally interrelated” and “(T)he ‘me’ discovers meaning and happiness by joining and belonging to a ‘we’” (Siegel and Brayson, 2011, p. 122).

However, when your home was not a place where you felt happiness and love, your home became “a source of fear and emotional dysregulation” (Cozolino, p.231). If your caregivers didn’t validate your emotions and you didn’t feel understood even before you started speaking your language, as an adult, you likely depend on someone or something to soothe you when you face difficulties (Maté, 2010). These parenting styles and behaviors may be passed on from one generation to the next generation (Maté, 2010).

It’s never too late to unlearn what was passed onto you. Despite how you grew up and wherever you grew up, you can learn how to be kind to yourself. You can start learning how to regulate your emotions by interacting with your therapist. “We are hard-wired to be collaborative. When we are integrated interpersonally, we become integrated internally” (Siegel, 2012, p.34-6).

The good news for doing this is that “(A)cross the life span, relationships are an important source of vitality and they promote health in mind and body (Siegel, 2012, p.34-5). Also, “(E)mpathetic relationships help the immune system function well” (Siegel, 2012, p.34-5). Learning how to have a healthy relationship with yourself and other people promotes your overall health. It is not a quick solution, but the reward is enormous.


References

Cozolino, L. (2006). The neuroscience of Human Relationships. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.

Maté, G. (2010). In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts. Berkley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Newman, B. M. & Newman, P. R. (2009). Development Through Life. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Siegel, D. J. (2012). Pocket Guide to Interpersonal neurobiology. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company

Siegel, D. J. & Bryson, T. P. (2011). The Whole-Brain Child. New York, NY: Bantam Books.

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