It’s still early in the year and overused catchphrases are still being tossed around in life both real and fake (i.e. social media).
No doubt you’ve heard or read something along the lines of, “This year is mine!”
Or, “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”
Or, “New year, new me.”
Regardless of your opinion of New Year’s resolutions (useless, with far better ways to pursue positive change, if you ask me), all of the quotes, promises and hashtags generally signal one thing: people are unhappy with their current state and they desire change.
Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with striving for new goals and chasing opportunity. We should all be living some degree outside of our comfort zone if we truly want to find success.
However, the majority of “resolutioners” often commit to goals related to working out, eating well and losing weight. There’s a reason new gym memberships peak in January with roughly eighty percent of those people quitting within five months.
Very often, the thing that underpins poor eating, lack of commitment to a reasonable fitness routine and a general healthy lifestyle is a lack of mental well-being. It’s not laziness or some weakness or infirmity of the character. It’s poor upkeep of the mental game.
This isn’t to say that everyone who drops out of a gym is suffering from depression, PTSD or some other pernicious psychopathology. Rather, it’s that they likely prioritized attempting to get their body right before they address getting their mind together. Good mental health doesn’t just exist in our brains. It’s made manifest in our behavior.
There are many ways to tend to mental wellness outside of therapy—though we should all give that a go at some point. Mental well-being is dynamic, meaning that it’s constantly changing, evolving and shifting.
This is both good news and bad news.
On the upside, it means that it is possible to address old habits, confront painful emotions and change thought patterns. On the downside, it requires work. You can’t just set it and forget it. It’s a process, not an end-state.
Our mind is one of the most underutilized and overlooked ‘muscle groups.’ And like any other muscle group, it can go haywire without proper attention and care. Our ability to generate effective mind-body connection, emotion regulation, sleep, impulse control, appetite, libido et al is intrinsic to how much attention we pay to our mental health.
The World Health Organization defines mental health, not just as the absence of a mental disorder but as a “state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
That’s a tall order but it’s not unreasonable. In fact, it is completely attainable for most people if they choose to accept their agency in life. The fact is, anything we don’t change (or make reasonable efforts to change), we are choosing.
In the coming weeks and months, we’ll cover just how you might flex your mental and emotional muscles, how you can train yourself to prioritize your mental well-being and how you can exercise your spirit much in the same way you do your body.
If the last decade were the YOLO years, let the next ten be about self-care. Not in the devil may care, do whatever makes you happy for a moment-way. Rather, focus on doing it in a mindful, present-focused manner that generates lasting change and sustainable contentment. That’s the kind of resolution I can get behind.
Over the next few months, we are going to be tackling a wide range of issues related to mental well-being and sexuality. Between blog posts, there is the opportunity to ask anything related to those topics. Understandably, sometimes the questions are sensitive and the asker desires to remain anonymous. If that is the case, you can send a free, anonymous email from here:
For all you intel, tech wizards out there, I know this isn’t the MOST secure anonymous email generator but no one is tracing your IP address to see who sent the email asking a question related to sexual health. I promise.
Please send all questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Meaghan Mobbs, M.A. is a West Point graduate, Afghanistan Veteran, and former Army Captain who is currently a Clinical Psychology pre-doctoral fellow at Columbia University, Teachers College where she researches and writes about modern day veteran issues. She headlines the Debrief on Psychology Today and her work appears in numerous publications. Mobbs is a President Trump appointee to the United States Military Academy Board of Visitors, George W. Bush Veteran Leader Scholar, Tillman Military Scholar, David O’Connor Fellow, and a Noble Argus and National Military Family Association Scholarship recipient.