The New Year is an ideal time to commit yourself to make changes that will make your life better. While the most popular resolutions involve physical goals - such as doing more exercise, losing weight, improving your diet and giving up smoking - improving emotional wellbeing doesn't usually make the list.
Yet when you consider how important your mental health is and how common some mental illnesses - such as depression and anxiety - are, it makes sense to aim to be happier and more positive.
So this year, why not add emotional wellbeing to the things you're going to take steps to improve? As well as boosting your mental health, there's evidence it can improve your physical health too. Here are some suggestions of how to achieve it:
Manage your stress levels
If you're under too much pressure, it can have a negative effect on your emotional wellbeing. High levels of stress at work or at home can make it difficult for you to be positive, and that can impact on your relationships too.
Some of the common signs of stress include loss of appetite, sleep problems, headaches, muscle tension and you may feel more irritable and lose your temper more easily than usual. If you're not sure if you are affected by stress, you could try our questionnaire to find out.
Stress plays a role in all aspects of our lives and taking steps to reduce the stress in your life is a good idea, but it's not always practical. There are ways to manage it, our article Getting a handle on stress is full of helpful tips to help you manage your stress levels. If your stress levels are more significant, you may benefit from reading our article How to cope with distress.
Most importantly, if things are starting to overwhelm you, don't forget our CABA advisors are always available - even if you just need a chat - either online or via our 24-hour phone helpline (+44 (0) 1788 556 366).
Be more mindful
Being aware of the present moment - often called mindfulness - can help to change the way you approach life. It involves being more in tune with your thoughts, feelings and your environment. Mindfulness focuses on the here and now, it encourages you to dispense with the usual day-to-day things that clutter up your mind and help you see more clearly. This may help you to start to feel calmer, happier and more content, just by being more present.
Foster healthy relationships
There's lots of evidence that your personal relationships are vital for your emotional wellbeing. Several studies suggest how important social relationships are for emotional wellbeing, with experts believing that relationships offer ways to share positive experiences and as a way to give and receive emotional support.
Good relationships rarely just happen, and most people have to work at them. Consider making more time for the people around you who you care about, including members of your family, friends, work colleagues and neighbours.
You could catch up with friends who you haven't seen in a while or strike up a conversation with someone at work who you haven’t spoken to before. By making an extra effort to stay in touch with and support others, you may find they will treat you more positively too.
Be more physically active
There's no doubt that physical activity is good for your emotional wellbeing, as exercise releases hormones called endorphins that can boost your mood. Exercising outdoors may be particularly beneficial, as many studies suggest there's a positive relationship between exposure to nature and mental health.
Take gardening, for instance. According to research by the UK-based charity Thrive, it can help you feel happier and more confident, as well as healthier. Find out more by reading Thrive's leaflet Harnessing the mood-boosting power of gardening.
Besides gardening, there are many different ways to be more active. Read all about some of them in our article Ways to be more active.
Help other people
By giving to others - whether it's just a smile or a day's volunteering at a local charity - you can improve your emotional wellbeing.
In the case of volunteering, there's evidence that it brings health benefits not just to the people being helped but the volunteers too. Studies suggest that volunteering could extend your life expectancy as well as improving your relationships (and making new ones).
It isn't always about committing hours to volunteering. You could try a smaller act of kindness, such as helping someone who's struggling with shopping bags or a buggy, saying 'good morning' to a someone you don't know, or simply saying 'thank you' when someone does something for you.
It goes without saying that the healthier your diet, the better your physical health. But what you eat can affect your emotional health too. According to the mental health charity Mind, eating a well-balanced diet at regular meal times with plenty of water and vegetables will help you to feel more healthy and happy. At the same time, reducing your alcohol intake and avoiding tobacco and recreational drugs will also help to improve the way you feel.
Many experts also believe that certain foods may also have an affect on your mental wellbeing: read our article 5 ways to eat to boost your mood to find out more.