The pop singer Andy Williams may insist that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year,” but this isn’t true for everyone.
For those who struggle with depression, it may—in fact—be the opposite. Holiday depression is real, and often the result of the undue pressure to be merry during the yuletide season.
Not everything about the holidays is bad for those struggling with mental health issues, though, and some aspects may even be remarkably positive! The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions, for instance, provides an avenue for instigating the sort of habit changes that offer real relief. Multiple studies show that shaking up habitual behaviors has a dramatic impact on mental health. What follows is a guide to getting started:
Four Steps to Relieving Depression by Forming New Habits
1. Be Fair and Honest with Yourself
Your success in forming new habits will be determined by your current mental state. If you’re finding yourself at a low, this does not mean intervention is impossible…it just means you may need to taper your expectations. Draw a comparison with athletes. When an individual is injured, the training volume they can endure is less. If they push past the limits of their body, they stand only to injure themselves further. Taking a measured approach does not mean they are any less of an athlete, it just means they’re being smart. The same is true of the work you do on your mental fitness.
2. Plan for Dips in Form
Planning for positive change often happens when motivation is high and time is aplenty. These peaks in form tend to be short-lived, however, and momentum can be lost when your wellbeing takes a dip. Plan for this, and aim to instigate habit changes that you think you can maintain, even when you’re at your lowest. After all, consistency matter most when pursuing the mental health benefits that come from establishing new routines.
3. Take it Step-by-Step
When a gymnast trains to do, say, an iron cross on the rings, they do not immediately start trying the full maneuver, but rather work on various progressions that eventually lead to success. Likewise, when you wish to achieve an ambitious goal, it is important to break it down into steps. If you want to change your diet habits, for instance, maybe start by simply eating one extra vegetable a day, or carrying a water bottle everywhere you go.
4. Don’t Despair if You Slip Up
The sort of consistent changes that relieve depression don’t happen overnight. Getting there is a slow, deliberate process with plenty of room for slip-ups. If you fall off the horse for a day, a week, or even a month…don’t worry! All that matters is that you return to your goal as soon as you feel able. With time and repeated effort, slip-ups will become fewer and further between, and, before you know it, your new habits won’t be a chore, they will simply be you.
To learn more about how new habits can lead to a new you, or to learn about other, innovative ways to relieve depression, do not hesitate to reach out to Vitalitas Denver—a mental health clinic specializing in ketamine infusion therapy and other ground-breaking approaches to help you become your best self.