Wishes for the New Year From a Psychologist

If you’ve ever been to see me for a consultation, these will sound familiar.

Rest More
Over 3/4 of my clients report having sleep problems. Whether it’s insomnia, restlessness, nightmares, inconsistent patterns and schedules, or screen interference, we’re not sleeping. Ruthlessly protect your sleep. At Embolden, we also believe in individualized analysis of personal energy patterns and schedules. Work with your circadian rhythms as much as possible. What works for someone may not for another.
See also Got Sleep.

Everything is Therapy
What you consume: eat, watch, read, buy, wear, listen to. Do. Content matters. Make choices that are nourishing.

Connect
Find relationships with safe and supportive people. This gives us an anchor and an army. I always say, there’s plenty of troubles out there, don’t seek them in your personal life. Your alliances should be based on loyalty, trust, humor, reciprocity, affection, and great hugs.

Disconnect
Learn how to be alone with you. Sitting, resting, standing, or walking without anyone else or other stimuli is something that we forget how to do. It can feel very weird at first, just doing nothing. Start slow and build it up.

Workout your brain
As we live longer, we have seen a significant uptick in dementia and brain disorders. Recently, I have seen a scary wave of cognitive disorders related to long Covid in my neuropsychology practice. Your brain craves stimulation. Give it something new to do and learn. Engage socially. Oxygenate by cardiovascular activity. Nourish with great food. Minimize alcohol and don’t use tobacco products. Take care of your health- sometimes you can do everything right, but you may have a genetic loading that has to be monitored. For example, the South Asian community has a huge vulnerability for diabetes, that has a cultural basis from times of colonization.

Get out of your comfort zone
If you are right handed, try writing with your left hand. It’s not easy. Do math by hand instead of a calculator, do crosswords, practice a new language, explore safely, put aside the cookbook and make a recipe on your own, read, write, take a different route when driving. Do you know what the date is without looking at your phone? Short cuts do not stimulate us. Challenge your brain, it likes it.

Learn
We all have things that intrigue us. Try them. Draw, sing, take a dance class, take jujitsu, write the book that’s been in your head, learn a new language, try a musical instrument try a new cuisine.

In her 40s, Indian writer Jhumpa Lahiri, raised in England and Rhode Island, speaking Bengali and English as her primary languages, decided to learn Italian. After taking numerous classes online, she moved her family to Rome for the full language immersion experience.  She later wrote a book in Italian, a language that she did not learn until middle age. There are no time limitations on learning.

Speak your truth
I tell clients to speak as clearly as they can about what they want to convey. I call it the Occam’s Razor of communication. Oblique communication leaves everyone dissatisfied. Be polite, but you don’t need to make excuses for your needs: “Thank you so much for inviting me, but I’m not going to be able to make it. I really appreciate that you thought of me!”

Talk to people in public
You don’t have to be creepy. Most of us don’t know our neighbors, communities, or even coworkers. It’s OK to say hello, I really like your scarf, and asking your Uber driver, cashier, or takeout person how they are doing. Interaction matters. Insular lives add to our (huge) collective loneliness.
Related:  The Art of the Compliment.

You don’t have to focus on the positive
The gratitude attitude, smile at all costs, I am fine, it does not work for many people. That doesn’t mean you have to vent every detail of your personal angst, but you also don’t have to be fake happy.
Related: Smiling Depression.

Ask for help
We are awful at asking for help. Somehow, a tit-for-tat mentality has created fear of asking for anything.  We would not be here today, as a species, without cooperation and community.
Related: How to Ask for Help Without Feeling Weird.

Don’t Withhold Affection
Whether you were gone for five minutes, five days, or five months, your dog is overjoyed to see you. We are not dogs and we overthink with our frontal lobes, but letting people know that we are extremely fond of them it’s not a bad thing. It creates oxytocin and a sense of well-being for both the giver and the receiver of affection.

Practice Self-Compassion
Self compassion beats self-esteem and even self-efficacy when it comes to mental health. Being kind to yourself also spills over to being kinder to others. Self-esteem is based on skills and external accolades. Self-efficacy comes from the expectation that you will do a good job in the future.  Self-compassion is extending grace, empathy, and kindness to yourself no matter the circumstances.
Related: Why Self-Compassion is More Important Than Self-Esteem.

Start
Dates do not matter. It doesn’t have to be the first of the year, a Monday, your birthday, or some external date. You can start at 11 AM on Wednesday, December 28, setting the intentions for yourself that are meaningful to you.
Related: Me, Myself and I: Self-Care as Daily Practice

Love and Peace to you and yours. ❤️

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Embolden Psychology
Embolden

Embolden offers the ADOS-2, the gold standard assessment for kids on the spectrum.

Combined with psychoeducational testing, it helps provide comprehensive information and recommendations to help children and teens six and up.

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