For those of us with mental illnesses, 2016 may seem like just another year for disappointments, failures and could-have-been’s. However, there are many doctors and researchers who have designed and unearthed new ideas and treatments that might finally unlock the secrets to better maintaining our mental illnesses and improving our well-being. Here is a list of 16 new approaches to mental health for 2016.
1. “Spa” treatment centers (Malibu). Treatment centers are nothing new to the field of mental health and research. However, society has come a long way from the bedlam asylums in which the mentally ill were once locked away and forgotten. Today, we have treatment facilities that are more like spas than hospitals, focused on keeping us relaxed and comfortable in order to get to the root of our illnesses, rather than identifying and medicating them.
2. Makeover. We give ourselves a little “sprucing” before job interviews, first dates or special occasions. But what about a “just because I feel a little blue” pick-me-up? It doesn’t require a ton of money to get a haircut, dab on some makeup to lounge around the house or put on those Sunday shoes to pick up that gallon of milk. Little things that make us feel better can make a huge difference for longer than the few minutes that we allow ourselves the luxury.
3. Crisis center instead of jail. Authorities in states across America are taking strides to help us better cope with our mental illness. They recognize our struggle and would rather see us get the help and support we need than to send us off to the one place that most of us don’t need to be – jail. Cities all over the globe are opening up crisis centers that take in people affected by mental illnesses in order to keep them out of jail until a doctor or councilor can help us find a more permanent solution to help us cope.
4. Dimensional approach. Until now, doctors have treated people in two categories: the mentally ill and the not mentally ill. However, psychiatrists have discovered that this line in the sand is actually far more objective, and that there are degrees to mental illnesses which have never before been considered. Doctors are beginning to develop treatments tailored to these varying degrees of mental illness, rather than writing off people as either on one side of the fence or the other.
5. RADMIS project– This is a development discovered that will allow a device that most people use and know well, the smartphone, to monitor, record and report changes in a patient’s mental health, recommend changes in treatment and educate the patient about what is happening to them and what to expect.
6. Practice gratitude. Research suggests that finding just one thing for which we are grateful, from our beloved pet to a song that brings a few seconds of relief from the effects of our illnesses, goes a long way to improving our mental well-being in the long run.
7. Try meditation. It is hard for those of us with mental illnesses to clear our minds at any given time. However, with a little practice, and some coaching from a professional, the calm clarity of meditation can work wonders for our mental health.
8. Stay educated. Professionals once told us to not read up on any illnesses on our own to avoid stirring frantic cases of hypochondria. However, these days, doctors encourage us to keep ourselves informed and updated on our conditions. The more we know, the less our imaginations run away with us and allow us to give in to hysterical notions that are more farfetched than the reality of our mental illnesses, and the better we can inform our loved ones about what is going on in our worlds.
9. Listen to sad music. This is another thing that has always been taboo. For ages, we heard that listening to sad music was bad for our mental well-being. But, have you ever noticed how much lighter you feel after a good cry or allowing those sad, heavy feelings to flow freely just for a day? Take your “blue” day with those slow, sad songs! It often makes for more, brighter days in the long run.
10. Travel. Sometimes, all we need is a change of scenery. Take a trip to a place you’ve always wanted to go, or just go to a place that makes you feel safe and welcomed. It doesn’t have to be hundreds of miles away or cost a ton of money. Any place that changes our train of thought, in a positive way, is a good place.
11. Sleep more. Now there’s one that most of us never thought we would ever hear! Just like with anything else, sleep has a major impact on our mental health, and not enough can impact anxiety and mood disorders.
12. Do a digital detox. Facebook and Instagram aren’t determining factors on our mental well-being, but getting annoyed with the perpetual drama queens and crap stirrers do us little good. Seeing a recent ex posting pics with his or her new lover hurts our self-esteem, and the people whose posts announce that they have everything going for them can make us feel like we can do nothing right. So take a break from social media. Research interesting topics, watch cute or funny videos on YouTube, or ditch the devices altogether and curl up with some good books!
13. Be kind to someone else. Sometimes the cure for the blues is to put a smile on the face of someone else who feels the way that you do.
14. Learn to say no. Two letters make one whole sentence. Don’t forget to say it once in a while in order to take better care of yourself!
15. Talk to others about mental health. You never know when your words and experiences could help someone else. Share some things about your mental health. It could save a person’s life, and it definitely falls under the category of being kind.
16. Coping toolbox. It is self-explanatory. Put in a box your favorite movies or music, books or magazines, coloring or sketch books, water and anything else you like to do or did as a child to soothe yourself in stressful times. Bring it out and hide from the world when things get tough!
2016 has been labeled “the year of the new you.” Maybe this list can make it “the year of mental wellness” for some of us.