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10 Mental Health Resolutions to Make This Year

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    Stop Striving for Perfection

    Being a perfectionist might come in handy around the home or office, but this character trait can actually be detrimental to your health. According to a study from Trinity Western University, older people who scored high on the perfectionism scale were 51 percent more likely to die than those who had low perfectionism scores. The researchers think stress and anxiety, which are common among perfectionists, might contribute to the high mortality rate.

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    Open Up to Your Best Friend

    When you experience something unpleasant or uncomfortable, your body reacts by secreting excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which affects your sleep cycle and metabolism. But when you experience something stressful in the presence of a best friend? Not so much. (Cortisol levels were hardly impacted in the latter case, says a Developmental Psychology study.) The presence of a best friend buffered the negativity, report study authors Ryan E. Adams and Jonathan Bruce Santo. Sometimes the last thing you want to do is talk about your feelings, but try an informal chat-therapy session with your close friends this year. Better yet, try that super-challenging boot camp together. Chances are you'll kill it even more.

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    Go to Bed Earlier

    Night owls and insomniacs can attest that staying up late ruminating about life's woes can be detrimental to your mental health. Indeed, going to sleep late and sleeping for shorter periods of time may result in more repetitive negative thinking, according to researchers at Binghamton University. The study authors suggest going to sleep earlier to prevent an influx of negative energy and endless tossing and turning. It's also smart to get into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day.

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    Pat Yourself on the Back

    Self-affirmations can help you perform better in stressful situations when you're feeling doubtful or lack confidence. Proof: When MBA students wrote down their most important skill before an interview, they negotiated and performed better than those who wrote down their least important skill, according to a Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin study. "Any time you have low expectations for your performance, you tend to sink down and meet those low expectations," says Sonia Kang, Ph.D., lead author of the study. "Self-affirmation is a way to neutralize that threat." If you're feeling down about making slow process on your weight-loss resolution, remind yourself about the positive changes you're making to get you closer and closer to your goal each day.

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    Limit Time on Social Media

    You know that people using social media highlight the great things happening in their lives while leaving out the rest. But it can still make you feel left out or behind schedule when you scroll through your news feed. Researchers at the University of Michigan found that the more you use Facebook, the less satisfied you feel with your life. The research indicates that social media sites contribute to a person's loneliness and make them feel isolated, even if they're not. Limit your time on social media to an hour per day to avoid those negative thoughts. Instead, interact with your friends and family face to face. In-person quality time can do everyone some good.

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    Think Big Picture

    Going to the gym regularly and cutting calories will help you lose weight in the short term. But if you don't identify why you want to make a change in the first place, you'll just be putting a Band-Aid on the issue, says Scott Shetler, personal trainer and author of Abundant Health: Fitness for the Mind, Body, and Spirit. It's helpful to identify the root of unhealthy habits and tackle them head-on, he says. "If you can identify with that and realize what happened to get you to that point," says Shetler, "you can better address the problem and ensure long-term success."

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    Make Time to Meditate

    It's far too easy to get overwhelmed by daily tasks and let stress take over, but allotting a small amount of time every day for meditation is a simple solution. In fact, people felt less stressed when they meditated for 25 minutes a day for three days, according to Carnegie Mellon University research. It's okay to start even slower, though. Check out these beginner meditation tips for simple ways to incorporate the ancient practice into your life.

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    Learn from Setbacks

    When life throws a negative situation at you, it's important to use it as a learning lesson instead of shutting down, says Christine Hassler, author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life. "I've noticed that people are healthier mentally and physically on all levels when they don't react to life as a victim, but they really react as a cocreator," says Hassler. "We can't control everything that happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it."

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    Help Others Around You

    Putting value on kindness and striving to make a positive difference in others' lives, as well as focusing on what you're thankful for, can have a major impact on your mental health, says Hassler. Several studies have found that being kind releases endorphins, the same feel-good hormones released during exercise. This year, make an effort to strengthen your generosity.

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    Find Something Positive from Every Negative

    If you just went through a rough breakup, or you've having problems at work, it might be tempting to binge on Oreos and Netflix. But fight the urge—you'll be happy you did! "We can either be reactive or proactive," says Hassler. The next time something stressful happens, relieve your stress with positive activities like meditation and running instead of bingeing on unhealthy foods.