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10 Steps Towards a Healthier, Happier Brain in the New Year

The new year always inspires new res­o­lu­tions and goals (or some­times, the same ones that we didn’t quite accom­plish!) Here are some ideas for tak­ing con­trol of your health in this new year. See how many you can imple­ment and take note of the impact. Let us know what works for you and what doesn’t.

  1. Take plea­sure in sim­ple things. Every now and then, stop sprint­ing to the fin­ish line and pause to take in what is around you right now. Use a beau­ti­ful land­scape or build­ing to help you med­i­tate and find calm, before you race ahead again. A break can give you the strength and energy to keep going.
  2. Set real­is­tic goals. One of our biggest stres­sors in life is set­ting up unre­al­is­tic expec­ta­tions that we then get anx­ious about and fail to meet. When you set goals that you can reach, even if they are small, you can cre­ate a sense of achieve­ment and suc­cess that builds on itself, giv­ing you what you need to tackle your big­ger goals.
  3. Re-interpret Your Sit­u­a­tion. Many times, the phys­i­o­log­i­cal response of a good event and a bad event are the same — they just have a dif­fer­ent per­cep­tion. Know­ing that can help you take con­trol of the things you can, which helps to keep your stress level low.
  4. Nur­ture your dreams. Cre­ate a rich, visual image of your dream. The cre­ative act alone will exer­cise broad areas of your brain. Imag­ine it as rich visu­ally, phys­i­cally, and sen­so­ri­ally as pos­si­ble so it cre­ates a vivid mem­ory that sticks with you over time. When you wan­der off course per­son­ally, being able to recall that rich pic­ture will help clar­ify your pri­or­i­ties and pull you back on track.
  5. Get com­fort­able with no. It’s great that you want to help every­one else, but you’re only one per­son. Believe it or not, you can’t do it all. When you’ve got too much on your plate, express your wish to help and be as sup­port­ive as pos­si­ble, but respect your time and energy.
  6. Find your strengths. Sure we all need to improve our weak­nesses, but under­stand your great­ness as well. Know­ing your strengths gives you a per­spec­tive that will help you under­stand your reac­tions, and knowl­edge is power over stress.
  7. Cul­ti­vate your social net­work. Fam­ily and friends can be stress­ful, but more often than not, they are won­der­ful sup­port when you need some­one on your side. That doesn’t mean they will always tell you what you want to hear, but usu­ally they will go to bat for you and be there if you need an ear, a shoul­der, or just a good laugh.
  8. Com­mit to your Phys­i­cal Health, for the Sake of your Men­tal Health. The body and mind are inter­twined and rely on each other. Com­mit to sleep­ing, exer­cis­ing, and eat­ing at least rea­son­ably well. Lit­tle steps towards tak­ing care of your phys­i­cal body can change your men­tal per­spec­tive and lower stress dramatically.
  9. Learn to Com­mu­ni­cate Effec­tively. It will help you build your social net­work, clar­ify your goals, and nur­ture your dreams.
  10. Plan for Your Future. Finan­cial issues can be some of the biggest stres­sors of all. View it as a chance to exer­cise your brain and learn some­thing new. By learn­ing more and build­ing a plan for the future, you will again rein­force your sense of con­trol over where you are headed. While money can’t buy you love, it can buy you a lit­tle nego­ti­at­ing room in your life by giv­ing you options (if you can build up some sav­ings, you don’t have to feel stuck where you are in your career, geog­ra­phy, or intel­lec­tual life).
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