Mental Health Matters: Nic Goddard

Reconnecting with nature could be a New Year's resolution well worth keeping.

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The festive period is a well known tough time for people’s mental wellbeing with the combination of intense family get togethers, the pressures of Christmas and financial worries around the extra spending all contributing to stresses, along with the short, dark days of mid winter.

Mental health support services all report a rise in demand at this time of year, with many offering extended opening times for their helplines and other services.

This year with the additional shadow of Covid hanging over plans and celebrations many people have scaled back their plans or moved celebrations and gatherings online.

In the days between Christmas and New Year the inevitable barrage of New Year’s Resolutions begins and this year has been no different. Social media is filled with people signing up to run increasing distances every day in January, to stop drinking, to start learning a new language, to go vegan, to lose weight…

Studies show that less than 10 per cent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions and, while striving for self improvement or a healthier life is never a bad idea, setting unachievable goals to measure yourself by during the most difficult months of the year can be harmful for your sense of mental wellbeing.

While the end of one year and the beginning of the next is a great time to do a self-audit and have a think about where you are versus where you would like to be, January 1 is just another day on the calendar and every single day after it will also be a brand new start if you want one. Huge changes are overwhelming but even the greatest journey starts with a single step, so maybe think small rather than big, aim for changes that grow over time. If you feel you would benefit from some company in your challenges or life changes find others doing the same but make sure they are supportive on the bad days as well as celebratory on the good ones. Ensure you do the same for them.

Mental health and wellbeing are well worth considering in that self-audit too. Maybe 2021 will be the year you seek some support if you decide you need it. Whether that is a chat with your GP, a counsellor or a helpline service, for a one-off reset or for ongoing support.

Maybe you would benefit from regularly building in some time for self-care whether that is reconnecting with nature in some way – wild swimming, forest bathing, learning more about local wildlife or gardening, or taking up a new craft or hobby. Or maybe this is the year that you become a volunteer and find a way of using your skills and offering your time to help others.

If you have looked at your life and decided 2021 is the year for changes, whether to do with your wealth, health or happiness then follow the golden rules of life changes – start small, keep it achievable, don’t let being knocked back stop you from carrying on, ask for support when you need it and remember tomorrow is always a brand new day.

Good luck – and happy new year!