Don’t Carry it With You: Mental Detox for the New Year

Middle aged woman doing yoga, face to the sun, breathing in.  Mental detox is incredibly important.

We all think this is it! This is the year I get my life together, my finances handled, and meet every single one of my fitness goals: no more mid-day naps, no more frivolous spending, and no more second dinner at 11 pm.

All we have to do is wake up with uncharacteristic determination. 

But what if our approach to New Years Resolutions was different this year? What if we based our goals not on being better but being happier? Not “I'm going to have a great year” or “I’m going to be my best self.” Just happier. 

Ok. Great. Be happy. Sure. Because it’s just that easy. 

Honestly, I wish it was. But if you can take that “New Year, New You” mentality and focus it on making impactful life changes for a few days, you’ll start to see results that will keep you motivated to live a life that does create happiness. 

I go through a complete mental and physical detox process every January. And you know what? It’s been a tremendous tool to utilize when I fall back into bad habits or get sucker-punched by life (thanks, covid). 

Here are eight signs you may need a mental detox of your own:

  • You feel like everything you do is reactionary, and you are just barely keeping your head above water.  
  • You find yourself having breakdowns frequently. So much so you schedule breaks after certain events or interactions because you anticipate them.
  • Important relationships are suffering. People you love are telling you there’s a problem. 
  • You don’t have passion, interests, or hobbies. You’re a robot with a task list, and that's all you have the capacity for. 
  • You feel like actual physical garbage. Your head hurts, your stomach hurts, your joints hurt. 
  • There’s never enough time—for anything—basic self-care and hygiene, unexpected errands, surprise dinners… none of it.
  • You feel exhausted 24/7. Your regular sleep schedule is entirely out of sync, and you cannot catch up on your sleep debt no matter how many mental health days you take. 
  • Guilt over what you haven’t accomplished is eating you alive. It doesn’t matter that no one else is holding the standards for you. 

If anything in the list above sounds uncomfortably familiar, it might be time for a detox. Don’t worry- we don’t expect you to give up your favorite things. We want to help make more room in your day, and your life, for the things you love the most.

Step One: Declutter

Make room in your life, and in your space, for the things that are meaningful and helpful to you. Donate those clothes you might fit into someday to someone who needs them now. Unfollow those influencers that make you feel guilty instead of inspired. Throw out the expired products taking up space in your cabinets; they’re not even safe to use anymore! 

Having these constant reminders of perceived shortcomings are never going to benefit you. You don’t get better at something by constantly being reminded how terrible you are. It’s like trying to squeeze into jeans from high school…discouraging. Those jeans are not in your closet as a tool for motivation but self-flagellation. Do You know what will inspire you to take better care of yourself? Walking into your closet and knowing you can wear anything in there and look good while wearing it. 

So stop torturing yourself with what you’re not accomplishing, stop giving space to things that aren’t inspiring you, and stop letting negative people steal time and energy away from the ones you love. Get rid of it. Maybe those things can serve someone else, but they aren’t serving you. 

Step Two: Assess What Makes You Feel Good

This requires some deep digging and maybe some trial and error. Look past the fleeting moments of joy fueled by impulse purchases or cheat meals and examine what actually makes you happy. Perhaps it was less about the product you bought and more that you were doing something nice for yourself. Or maybe it wasn’t the dessert that you couldn’t say no to, but the people you were with or the memory associated with it. Those impulse purchases and indulgences are usually tied to something else, typically personal connections, self-compassion, or personal growth. 

The stress of holding yourself to impossible standards can have a significant negative impact on your mental and physical health. Life isn’t something we have much control over, but our actions are. By understanding what activities, people, and even food choices make us feel nurtured, we can capitalize on them and use them to help us stay stable when life is rocky. 

Try finding a breakfast that works for your lifestyle and schedule; by starting the day off with something filling and protein-packed, you are not only taking care of yourself physically but avoiding stomach cramps or a hangry burn out during your morning. This simple change can have a domino effect on the rest of your life. By eating healthy at the start of your day, you’re more likely to keep seeking out and identifying which foods continue that feeling. You’re also starting the day with an accomplishment and showing yourself some compassion. When we create daily habits that put our well-being first, we set ourselves up for success instead of failure.   

Step Three: Capitalize on Your Free time

We all have responsibilities and obligations, but since you’ve now decluttered your personal space and time, you now have the ability to fill it with WHATEVER YOU WANT. 

Prioritize your happiness over your productivity.

Best advice? Don’t fill your free time with more responsibilities, obligations, or things that remind you of your responsibilities and obligations. Instead, try to fill it with the things you’ve now realized impact your long-term happiness.

Focus your energy on mutually beneficial relationships, put time and effort into taking care of yourself without feeling guilty about it, and allow yourself to explore opportunities that pique your interest. 

Allow your interest to change and grow with you. 

Let this free space be fluid. Let it be as flexible as you need. This is going to set you up for long-term success. Your schedule is going to fluctuate, and so are your needs. Allow your free time to be adaptable; don’t guilt yourself into sticking with something no longer serving you. You will be learning a lot about yourself through this detox. It’s just as essential to discover the things that don’t serve you to better prioritize those that do.