Millions of us make New Year’s resolutions every year that involve getting healthy, from smaller goals, like cutting back on soda, to bigger habits we’re trying to develop, like eating better or exercising daily. But while it’s a good idea to set goals and get healthy physically, you might not stop to think about your mental health when you’re setting these resolutions on New Year’s Eve.
Those resolutions aren’t easy to keep. In fact, a study from the University of Scranton found that only eight percent of people achieve their resolutions. One reason is that the expectations people set were not realistic.
Luckily, relieving stress can be as simple as listening to your favorite song, taking a bath or going to bed early. These sound like resolutions we can realistically achieve!
If you’d like to make stress relief and mental health a priority in 2019, here are 31 stress-relieving practices — one for each day of January — to start the year off right. Feel free to mix them up if you can’t do one on a certain day, or repeat a favorite. However you approach it, if you practice one stress-relief technique every day of January, you are bound to notice some results.
Jan. 1: Write Down 5 Things You’re Thankful For
It may seem silly, but many studies have shown the positive mental-health effects of gratitude. If you start your day writing down at least five things you’re thankful for, it can really set the tone for the rest of your day. Why five things? Because thinking of one or two things you’re grateful for is pretty easy, but if you have a stressful day ahead of you, stretching it to five can really help you see how fortunate you are.
Jan. 2: Try Yoga, Or Begin A 30-Day Program
If you’ve never done yoga, you will find hundreds of free videos on YouTube — everything from introductions to yoga for beginners to restorative practices to advanced poses. If you’re new to it, just make sure to choose something easy and don’t push yourself.
Many YouTube teachers also have 30-day programs for free and release a new video each day beginning Jan. 2. While they’re not up for 2019 just yet, some channels offering this last year included Fightmaster Yoga (which, despite the name, is for beginners) and Yoga With Adriene. Keep an eye on these and other channels and you’ll likely find a free program soon.
Jan. 3: Download Stress-Relieving Apps
From meditation apps such as Headspace to gamified positive-psychology apps such as Happify, there are tons of free apps that help give you some relief from stress and feeling anxious. Since you know yourself better than anyone, take a little time to research some different apps and find some that may work for you.
Jan. 4: Take A Break From Social Media
You could choose to do this on a weekend or weekday, but it may be easier on a weekend, because you’ll be able to find more fun things to do. Either way, try going a day without it and see how you feel. I took a week-long digital detox a year ago and never looked back. While I still use social media, I never reinstalled the Facebook app and no longer mindlessly scroll.
Jan. 5: Drink More Water
This one is pretty easy — be mindful of your water intake. Our bodies are 55-60 percent water, so upping your water intake is always a good idea. Even just slight dehydration can alter your mood, including giving you feelings of anxiety. See how you feel when you drink more water for just one day, then continue to note how much you drink and how you feel.
Jan. 6: Go To Bed Early
Jan. 6 happens to be a Sunday, so this is a great way to kick off the next week. However, if you’re not at all tired and will get frustrated from trying to sleep, it might not be a great idea. But instead of yawning your way through Netflix to avoid the inevitable start to the workweek, try catching some extra z’s and see how you feel in the morning.
Jan. 7: Do Something You’re Good At
We all have things we’re good at. Perhaps it’s writing, cooking or sketching. If you do something you know you do well, it will give you a boost of confidence that may just alleviate some stress.
Jan. 8: Drink A Cup Of Tea
Tea has been known not only to give your mood a boost, but it also can reduce your risk for high blood pressure. The various health benefits vary depending on the type of tea you choose, but all kinds of tea have advantages. Do some research on the specific benefits you’re looking for, try out some different kinds until you find one you like, and then make a pot or cup, sit back and enjoy. After all, one researcher noted that some of the healing power of tea just might come from the ritual of making it.
Jan. 9: Pick Up A Book
If there’s a book you’ve been telling yourself you’ve always wanted to read, now is the time. Or, try to find a book that can help with stress management, or a title about meditation, journaling — anything you’ve been wanting to try. Head to your local library, or check out books on stress management at Amazon.
Jan. 10: Watch Your Favorite Movie
While I think every night is cause for a movie, you could choose to make this a special movie night and wind down with a film that always makes you feel better, or pick out a new one. If you’re not sure where to start, comedies are always the way to go if you’re stressed, because laughing really can help you feel better.
Jan. 11: Meditate, Or Just Breathe
If you’ve never tried meditation before, you’ll find tons of videos on YouTube to help get you started. If the idea of just sitting there with your thoughts is panic-inducing, try a guided meditation, such as one of these free ones from the Chopra Center, so you have something to follow. You could also try deep breathing, which can slow down the nervous system and make you feel less stressed.
Jan. 12: Take A Bath
Try either ending your weekend or workday with a nice, warm bath. Not only can it burn calories (which is nice if you are trying to stick to a weight-loss resolution), it can also help you relax. Try using bath products with extra benefits, like aromatherapy bath bombs that soothe dry winter skin with shea butter and chill out tense muscles with Epsom salt.
Jan. 13: Fact-Check Your Thoughts
This one may be a bit tougher than taking a bath, but it’s worth it. If some of your stress falls into the category of, “most of my problems are things I make up in my head,” it’s time to fact-check your thoughts. Before you assume the worst, stop and think to see if you even have facts to back up your thoughts. Simply put: thoughts are not facts, so don’t treat them as such.
Jan. 14: Listen To A Podcast About Anxiety
While I am admittedly not a podcast lover, there are quite a few about anxiety that I have taken a liking to. I don’t love listening to people talk, but when it comes to anxiety, the podcasts also act as free one-sided therapy. Sure, you don’t get to share your issues, but hearing other people talk about theirs may make you feel less alone.
My personal favorite is “Not Another Anxiety Show,” and it’s hosted by a registered nurse and wellness coach who is, as she says on her website, “on an anxiety adventure.”
Jan. 15: Color
Grabbing a coloring book, some pencils and crayons can be a seriously great stress reliever. There are tons of adult coloring books on the market, and some of them are pretty impressive. They’ll make you want to color every day!
Jan. 16: Build A Snowman—Or Get Creative Indoors
If you have snow where you live, embrace your inner kid and build a snowman. It’s not only a good workout, but the fresh air and a bit of play time can seriously snap you out of a bad mood and alleviate some stress. If you don’t have snow, swap the cold air for a creative indoor activity, like painting or making a craft. Research has found that art projects slow cognitive decline and relieve stress — and the mood-boosting benefits are there even if you aren’t good at drawing or painting.
Jan. 17: Cook Your Favorite Meal
While cooking can sometimes be stressful, if there’s no pressure (like for a giant family dinner), it can be quite relaxing. Find a new recipe to try, or cook up your favorite meal. Take your time, perhaps sip some wine while you’re cooking and enjoy.
Jan. 18: Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Even if just for one day, try either going without caffeine or at least cutting back if you drink it a lot. While caffeine can wake you up and make you feel a little better in the short-term, it can also lead to feelings of anxiousness, especially if you drink too much.
Jan. 19: Organize And Declutter
This activity is perfect for the weekend. While it might not be a fun activity, work on organizing and decluttering your home. In a study of families with cluttered homes, researchers found that mothers had elevated levels of stress hormones that correlated with the amount of stuff they had piled up around the house. So there’s something to that saying, “a cluttered house is a cluttered mind.”
Jan. 20: Turn On Music, Dance And Clean
If you were able to declutter and organize the day before, the following day is perfect for cleaning up. You can make the task more enjoyable by turning on some tunes and dancing your way through chores. Having a clean house can also give you a sense of pride and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something — because you have!
Jan. 21: Go Outside
Try spending some extra time outdoors. Yes, it’s cold in most places in January, but bundle up and head out. Try a short walk, or head to a nearby park to reflect on the beauty of nature. If you’re lucky enough to live near a national park property, you can enjoy free admission on Jan. 21, which is the first of five free entry days the National Parks Service will offer in 2019.
Jan. 22: Avoid Watching The News
Take it from someone who worked at a local TV station — the news is brutal. Don’t stress about missing something important. In the age of social media and texting, chances are you’ll find out about something major without needing to watch it yourself.
Jan. 23: Listen To Your Favorite Song
This one is the easiest one yet. Music can help you forget about what’s bothering you, so pop on some headphones, shut your eyes and listen to your favorite song or artist. It can be an excellent mood-booster.
Jan. 24: Try Essential Oils
Essential oils can be a great way to calm your mind. Because the bottles are so small, you can carry some with you and dab it on your neck or wrist when you need some aromatherapy. You can also purchase a diffuser to make your house smell amazing, and they even have more practical uses, like deterring rodents, or helping if you have a cold.
Jan. 25: Laugh
It may sound easy, but even laughing can be difficult when you’re stressed. If you’re struggling to find humor in a time of high anxiety, call up a friend who always makes you laugh, watching some funny videos on YouTube or pop in your favorite funny movie. The internet is filled with humor, so you can always find something to make you smile.
Jan. 26: Get A Massage
Spring for a good massage. If you don’t have the cash, try a chair massage, which is usually less expensive. You could also relieve some muscle tension yourself by massaging the areas where you carry stress, like your shoulders and neck, or try these simple stretches for your feet.
Jan. 27: Go For A Brisk Walk
It’s a well-known fact that exercise can help with stress by releasing endorphins — and that includes simply going for a walk. Even if it’s a quick stroll around your neighborhood or just around your workplace, just a few minutes of walking can help make you feel less stressed.
Jan. 28: Load Up On Fruits And Veggies
There’s an old saying that “you are what you eat,” and personally, I’d rather be an apple than a potato chip. Not that potato chips don’t have their place (they definitely do!), but junk food can actually make you feel worse. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you’re filling your body with nutritious food and not empty calories.
Jan. 29: Play A Game
Gather friends or family to play a favorite board game or take a turn playing one of your favorite old video games. If you’re not one for video games, there are many free phone and tablet games you can download. Many of them aren’t exactly hard, but they do require concentration — which means they can help take your mind off your troubles.
Jan. 30: Stay In The Moment
Take a day to focus on living in the moment or practicing mindfulness. If you are sad about the past or stressing about the future, you’re not enjoying your life right now. It’s easier said than done, but if you feel stressed about what’s next in life, try to reel it back in and focus on what is currently happening — if only just for one day.
Jan. 31: Choose And Use An Affirmation
Affirmations are a large part of my life and have really helped me during times of stress. If you’re not familiar: Affirmations are sentences or words that offer praise or kind thoughts to yourself. Basically, what would you say to a friend that is stressed? Say that to yourself. One of my favorites to say when I am feeling really anxious is, “I am at home in my body and all is well.” Find one that speaks to you, repeat it multiple times and breathe deeply. It can have a truly calming effect that, used daily in 2019, could help carry you through the entire year.
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