New Year, New Me: Taking Care of Your Mental Health in 2023

I have been thinking a lot about self-improvement recently. I have been doing yoga some mornings, trying to read a little before bed each night, and going for walks after dinner. However, these are not established habits yet and a lot of the time these new activities are short-lived. They are not sustainable, and the cycle of wanting to do more for my mental health yet failing to maintain the habits long-term continues. Here are some ideas of well-being practices for anyone wanting to try out some new activities this Winter. Although I have not tried all of these out, I have met people who really enjoy them, so I wanted to pass them along! 

Mindfulness

I recently attended a talk at the U-M Ford School of Public Policy about the educational implications that have stemmed from the Flint water crisis. At the end of this panel, superintendent of Flint schools Kevelin Jones led us in a five-minute mindfulness session. I immediately felt grounded and calmer than I was prior to attending this talk, and gained a clear sense of direction for the rest of the day. For anyone seeking to gain clarity of their goals, their values, or their lives, this could be a great tactic to try out. Check out these stress-relieving breathing techniques you can add into your daily life. Consider incorporating a few minutes of group mindfulness before work meetings, or right before leaving for classes. This may set a positive tone for your day!

Image of a person mediating with mountains in the background.

Start a Gratitude Journal

A few summers ago, I wrote in a gratitude journal. I jotted down three things I was thankful for that day, like the fact that my dad had made waffles that morning. Over the course of the summer, I grew to see beauty in my surroundings more than I ever had. I could gripe about how cold it is outside, for example, or I could see a Winter adventure for me to experience. This shift in perspective has helped me see how special mundane things really can be and I have become a happier person overall. To accommodate those with busy schedules this year, a gratitude journal can be easier to maintain than a regular journal, since entries can be much shorter! Mine were usually only a few bullet points long. 

Write Letters to Loved Ones

This year, I became pen pals with my younger sister, Sarah, and receiving her letters has been one of the highlights of my semester! Consider starting this up with friends or family living elsewhere, because writing the letters can be incredibly therapeutic (at least for me), and it is honestly so fun to receive mail other than my bills. Alternatively, there are organizations like Letters of Love at U-M and The Letter Project that specialize in letter writing to groups needing support!

Image of a person writing a letter.

Take Up a New Hobby

I am hoping to learn how to crochet this winter, an ideal pastime since I will be spending most of my time indoors. I am excited at the prospect of gaining a new skill and stepping away from schoolwork for a bit as I learn! Some other hobbies my friends have expressed interest in are trying out a new sport, learning calligraphy, cooking recipes that remind them of home, and getting back into reading. You could also start Sunday night board game competitions with your roommates (and borrow a new game weekly from the Ann Arbor District library)!

That being said, it is normal to not start anything new, and it could be an equally great option for some people to let go of current activities that are no longer bringing them joy. Maybe it’s dropping a club, maybe it’s moving away from a sport, but if you need to let go, that is okay! Pursue whatever is best for your mental health this year. 

Music

When I asked my sister, Allison, how she takes care of her mental health, her automatic response was “music.” She is always making oddly specific Spotify playlists, blasting music in her room, songwriting, and mindlessly humming to herself as she studies. Music can be a great way to connect with one’s emotions and inner self. Discover new artists, meditate with calming music (I recommend Novo Amor!), or learn a new instrument you’ve been wanting to try out!

Environmental Involvement

Nature is definitely restorative for a lot of people, and I love spending Saturdays in the Arb or hammocking between classes. Even though the Michigan winter looms ahead, there are still many outdoor activities you can do: sledding, making a snowman, or going for a winter walk. And, if you want to explore campus in all of its winter beauty, consider participating in the Central Campus Sustainability Walking Tour (you will receive a free warm drink!). You can also join environmental groups, volunteer locally with Washtenaw County’s environmental stewardship program, or join a UMSFP community of practice


Whether you are trying something new or removing an activity from your current life, remember to prioritize your well-being first and foremost. Let us know in the comments how you are taking care of your mental health in 2023!

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