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Mindful Beginnings: The importance of prioritizing mental health in your New Year's resolutions

Rhonda L. Randall, D.O.

Special to the Village News

With the New Year here, many are still considering what will be on their list of resolutions, and mental health should be top of mind.

A recent study shows that in 2023, one of the highest reported New Year's resolutions was to improve mental health (36%), reflecting a growing recognition of mental well-being as pivotal to our overall quality of life and highlighting a collective commitment to prioritize self-care and emotional resilience in the coming year.

The state of mental health in America continues to decline, with a mere 31% of Americans describing their mental health as "excellent" – a record low. While the collective recognition of prioritizing mental health is a step in the right direction, many people setting resolutions may not stick to them, with the majority losing their resolve as early as February.

So, as we plan our resolutions for the year ahead, here are some easy ways to implement and execute your mental health resolutions in 2024:

• Find and establish a solid support system. A robust support system is a cornerstone of mental well-being, providing a crucial safety net during inevitable challenges. When surrounded by understanding friends, family, or mentors, individuals are better equipped to navigate stressors, share burdens, and find solace in times of need. The interconnectedness of a strong support system not only validates emotions but fosters a sense of belonging and resilience, ultimately contributing to maintaining positive mental health.

• Reset your mind and body. Adequate sleep is a cornerstone of mental health, pivotal in cognitive function, emotional regulation, and stress resilience. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of us sleep less than seven hours a night. Insufficient sleep has been shown to negatively impact mental health, leading to impaired cognitive function, emotional regulation, and an increased vulnerability to mental health challenges. It is recommended for adults to sleep seven or more hours a night to keep the mind healthy.

• Don't be afraid to talk to a professional. Engaging with your primary care physician or a mental health professional offers a unique and confidential space to express thoughts and emotions without judgment, fostering self-awareness and understanding. A primary care physician or trained therapist both provide valuable insights, coping strategies, and evidence-based interventions tailored to individual needs, helping to navigate challenges and promote emotional well-being. Seeking professional help is a proactive step towards mental health, offering a guided journey of self-discovery and equipping individuals with the tools necessary to manage and overcome various mental health issues.

• Check your health insurance coverage. You may be surprised to learn that your health insurance plan offers mental health benefits which may include digital self-help tools, in-person and virtual visits, coaching, and employee assistance programs, allowing you to access support in a variety of ways. People with mild behavioral health needs may find digital self-help tools and virtual coaching as good places to start. If you have any questions, call the number on your insurance card for more information.

Embracing a commitment to self-care and emotional resilience represents both a personal vow and a societal pledge toward fostering a healthier and more compassionate world. As we venture into the New Year, this shared commitment can help us to build a future where mental health is regarded with the importance it deserves.

Rhonda L. Randall, D.O., is Chief Medical Officer at UnitedHealthcare, Employer & Individual.


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