15 Health and Wellness Resolutions for the New Year

new year's resolution featured image

Every new year brings new resolutions. 

We write out the goals we plan to accomplish, like buying that property, getting that real estate license, or fully utilizing that gym membership. New Year’s resolutions that are financially and/or physically beneficial are worthy indeed. 

However, as we launch into 2022, Black Men’s Health would like to recommend health and wellness resolutions that provide holistic enrichment as we navigate this unprecedented pandemic.   

We have assembled 15 goals that, when applied, can powerfully transform your life. Feel free to add some or all to your list. 

  1. Discover your sense of purpose. If you already have, move on to the next goal. But for those of us who struggle in this area, purpose is that central thing in life that fuels us. To find out what your purpose is, it helps to ask yourself these questions: What things were you passionate about as a child? If you didn’t have a job, how would you fill those hours? What issues do you care about the most? When you establish and execute on your purpose, you can experience life changing effects like enhanced self-esteem and a renewed sense of hope. But having a purpose can also protect you from the ill effects of this world. Purpose “make us less vulnerable to psychological discord,” states Steve Taylor, an author, lecturer, and psychology researcher. 
  2. Seek alignment. It sounds like an abstract concept, but it really isn’t. Here’s what alignment really means: It’s connecting your daily activities with your long-term purpose or goal. For example, if your goal is to write a book, make time to write everyday – page by page, chapter by chapter. If it’s to become a property owner, align your financial strategies with that goal.  
  3. Improve your ability to receive and give love. As the highest of all emotions, love offers healing, restoration, and contentment. It is especially beneficial to enlist the help of a counselor to tackle this goal. When we take concrete steps to confront our barriers around love, we enhance our lives on a mental, spiritual, and physical level. People with love and strong social bonds, live longer, have less stress, and are ultimately happier. 
  4. Face your fears. Fear can be healthy because it can keep you safe from real danger. But what if it’s keeping you from accomplishing your biggest dreams? Confronting fear builds courage, resiliency, and self-esteem.  
  5. Speaking of which, you should face your fear of failure. The Harvard Business Review recommends confronting and redefining failure and setting “approach” goals. HBR also cites what bestselling author Tim Ferris advocates: That is, creating a checklist of things you are afraid to do and the fears that come if you do them. Lifehack also suggests thinking positively, reframing goals, visualizing potential outcomes, and learning from whatever happens. By proactively engaging in this vital work, you can achieve your dreams and access your full potential. 
  6. Take breaks from social media or detox if you have to. When you spend prolonged periods of time on social media, you invariably start playing the comparison game between yourself and others, which negatively impacts self-esteem. You can start by turning off those social media notifications or completely deleting Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and/or Twitter off your phone. Whatever it takes. As far as duration. Be realistic but experiment. You can start out with a day or even a weekend. The rewards of a social media detox are manifold: It allows you more opportunities to develop deeper bonds with loved ones and frees up time to engage in more meaningful activities like hobbies and goals.
  7. Connect with loved ones and happy people. The happiest people in the world connect and make time for family and friends. They also connect with other happy people. “Being around people who are content buoys your own mood,” states this Mayo Clinic report. “And by being happy yourself, you give something back to those around you.” 
  8. Establish a daily reading habit. This practice has many mental and spiritual benefits. You not only acquire knowledge and expand your vocabulary by reading daily, but you can also reduce stress, stimulate the mind, and gain a sense of tranquility, says Lifehack. So, begin tackling that list of books you’ve always wanted to read. You can also finish those books that you bought off Amazon last year. 
  9. Work out more. Given our high rates of chronic illnesses, Black men should incorporate daily exercise because it positively impacts our physical health. However, we would be remiss if we overlooked the numerous wellness benefits of exercise. It not only reduces anxiety and depression, but it also improves mood and self-esteem. So yes, use that gym membership. If you want to avoid the gym due to the threat of Covid-19, then work out regularly at home. 
  10. Incorporate gratitude into your daily life. When you take note of all the things you are grateful for, you improve your psychological well being and overall happiness. There are actually a host of benefits, according to Psychology Today. A good way to start is by taking five or 10 minutes each day to journal the things in your life that make you grateful. It’s way better than complaining about the things you lack. 
  11. Be intentional about forgiving others. When someone has wronged us, it’s easy to hold a grudge or thoughts of revenge. But as you may have heard, when you forgive others, it’s not just for them, it is for you – a powerful act of self-care. So, what are the benefits of forgiving someone? According to the Mayo Clinic, practicing forgiveness can lead to improved mental health, self-esteem, and heart health. It can even lower blood pressure. 
  12. Laugh more. It reduces stress, it can lower heart attack risk, and even strengthen your immune system. So, watch more comedies and stand-up specials. Hang out with the homie who cracks you up. Embracing laughter, even amid negative circumstances, can make your life brighter.  
  13. Learn to be “present” by regularly practicing mindfulness. As this Mindful article states, you can practice mindfulness by engaging in deep breathing, training your brain to focus, and eliminating distractions. The benefits are many, including improved mental clarity, self control, and relationship satisfaction.
  14. Engage in “Deep Work.” Yes, we are fans of Cal Newport’s compelling book “Deep Work,” which outlines why it is necessary to engage in deep, meaningful work. In this age of distraction and hyper connectivity, deep work is rare yet treasured because of the fruit it can yield. As Newport hypothesizes, implementing this practice not only allows us to thrive in this new economy, it enables us to produce work that is meaningful and lasting. 
  15. Tap into your creativity. Is there a book you want to write, a hobby you’ve been dying to try, or an art project or website you want to launch? Do it. Being creative enhances wellbeing and brings about personal fulfillment and increased self-esteem.

The Real Deal About Seasonal Affective Disorder

photo of depressed black man

‘Tis the season of frigid air and overcast skies, where daylight and sunshine are in shorter supply. 

For millions in the U.S., year after year, the coming Winter causes a disruption in mood and behavior. They experience depression. They oversleep, over eat, and/or retreat from social activities and obligations.   

This isn’t just the winter blues we’re talking about.

Having difficulty functioning because of a change in seasons is termed seasonal affective disorder or SAD, a type of depression that occurs with a seasonal pattern. Winter-induced SAD is more common. There is also Summer-pattern SAD, which can cause individuals to experience insomnia, weight loss, anxiety, and violent behavior in the summer months.

So, how prevalent is SAD? And what are the risk factors for it? Also, how are African Americans prone to developing this condition? 

With the December 21 Winter Solstice approaching, we answer those questions with these 8 facts about SAD that you should know:

SAD is not Prevalent in the General Population

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) states that seasonal affective disorder is only present in about 0.5 to 3% of the general population. The Cleveland Clinic estimated that it is 5%. 

People with Existing Mental Health Conditions are More Prone to Seasonal Depression

This is especially true of individuals with depression and bi-polar disorder. The NLM reports that SAD affects 10-20% of people who already have major depressive disorder and an estimated 25% of individuals with bipolar disorder.

People with SAD tend to also have other mental disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), an anxiety disorder, panic disorder or an eating disorder, states the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

It Can Run in Families as Well

Seasonal depression is more common in individuals with close relatives who have mental health disorders like major depression or schizophrenia, says the NIMH. 

SAD Can Happen at Any Age, but it Often starts in Young Adulthood 

The typical age it starts is between 18 and 30 years old

Women Are More Likely to Suffer from SAD

According to information cited by Mental Health America (MHA), four out of five people with seasonal depression are women. 

The Further You Live from the Equator, the Greater Your Risk

seasonal affective disorder photo of man in cold weather and sunglasses
People who live in colder Northern climates are more prone to developing SAD. Source/R. Sarki from Pexels

No surprise here: Winter-pattern SAD is more prevalent in the Northern areas of the U.S., especially those with below average sunlight exposure, a critical risk factor for the condition. 

Gathering Google Trends data from October 2020 to March 2021 and climate information from the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), CertaPet concluded that Alaska, Ohio, Minnesota, Montana, and Michigan were the states most susceptible to seasonal depression. That study also examined the level of sunlight exposure for all 50 states for the months of December, January, and February. Those five were at or near the bottom in sunshine rankings.   

Brain Chemical Imbalance and Biological Clock Change Are Significant Risk Factors

Speaking of shorter daylight hours, people with SAD can experience a brain chemical imbalance from decreased sunlight during the Winter months, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Reduced sunlight can impact serotonin levels, the brain chemical that affects mood. That drop can lead to depression.   

This One Risk Factor Makes African Americans Especially Vulnerable

Having low Vitamin D levels is also linked to seasonal depression. It just so happens that African Americans are at the highest risk of being deficient in this essential nutrient. Why? The melanin in our skin, which endows tone, can hamper our ability to synthesize the Vitamin D we get from the sun, according to Everyday Health. In addition, since serotonin also gets a boost from the nutrient, the lack of sunlight we receive in the Winter months can also lead to mood changes. What’s more, African Americans may possess different Vitamin D binding proteins, which work to carry the nutrient to various organs via the bloodstream. 

“There are reasons to believe that African Americans not only need more sun to produce vitamin D, but they could well have different vitamin D binding proteins that might make them more vulnerable to variations in sunlight,” said Dr. David O. Meltzer, the chief of hospital medicine at University of Chicago Medicine.

It’s worth noting that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to other health issues like heart disease, cancer, and osteoarthritis.