Mental Wellness: Take Charge of Your Mental Wellness – A Checklist for a New Year

by Denise O’Donoghue, Biblical Counselor

Mental wellness, or mental health, is defined by the World Health Organization as, “…a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

Certainly, as we age our abilities can become more limited. When thinking about mental wellness, it is best to concentrate on what you can do, not what you may no longer be able to do. If you once had a job but are now retired, perhaps you are tempted to think you have lost your ability to work productively, and fruitfully. In reality, you now have freedom to choose how you would like to exert your energies and with whom. By making a few intentional choices, 2019 can be a year you thrive, not just survive. Here are a few ideas to consider:

Make a decision to live in the present

When most of our thoughts are geared toward the past, it can foster feelings of sadness and depression. When most of our thoughts are geared toward the future, it can promote anxiety. Instead, keep your thoughts focused on today and simple pleasures. Read a book, sit outside in the sunshine, or do whatever brings you pleasure.

Make plans to engage socially with others

Visit a friend or family member. Invite someone to your home for coffee or tea. Call friends and invite them to go out to lunch or dinner. Be active in your faith community.

Make necessary changes to take good care of your body

How we treat our bodies impacts our mood. Make sure you are getting enough sleep each night. Eat healthy meals. Limit your sugar intake. Go for a walk.

Think – Exercise your brain

You have probably heard the old adage, “use it or lose it”. Of course, we tend to think of this in regards to our muscles, but our brains need exercise too. Work puzzles or better still, engage socially with others by playing bridge, chess or some other mentally challenging game.

Look for ways to care for others

Giving of ourselves is a great way to improve our outlook on life and give us a fresh perspective on the world. Call a neighbor and tell him you were thinking about him. Ask how he is doing. Ask your pastor for a list of church members who could use a little bit of cheer and offer to write a note or send a card. You will be showing care for your pastor at the same time by lightening his load a little.

Keep in touch with those far away

Perhaps you have moved to be closer to family but left friends in faraway places. Don’t let that stop you from reaching out. With today’s technology options, you can sit in front of a computer or smart phone and talk with a friend as if you were sitting across from him.

Do something you always wanted to do

Now is the time to write that novel, research your family tree, or learn to play a musical instrument. Having a new project can give you direction for the days ahead.

Sign up to be a volunteer

This may be the perfect time to invest your gifts and talents by volunteering in your community. When you volunteer, you replace thinking about yourself and your problems with thinking of others. This is a proven way to boost your mental wellness. 

Write about your faith journey

Take the time to capture the moments in your life where you grew in your faith. Here are a couple of questions to get you started: At what moments have you felt closest to God? In what ways have you seen Him work in your life? What a wonderful legacy to leave for your loved ones!

Pick one or two of these ideas or come up with some of your own. Embrace all the many things you can do and get started. Here’s to a thriving new year!

Denise O’Donoghue is a biblical counselor in Raleigh and a former professor for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. She is very blessed to have four living generations to share life with. You can reach Denise at