Most of us understand the value of personal reflection and renewal moving into a new year. Like me, I’m sure everyone hopes this year will mark the end of the pandemic stage of Covid so we can get back to whatever the new normal looks like. Although there are many factors like Covid that we can’t control, what we can control is the way we manage our energy and psychological health in response to setbacks and struggles we encounter, including the choices we make and the type of mindset we adopt. 

Many of you will have got into the habit of setting goals and resolutions at the start of each year. However, most people don’t apply the same discipline when it comes to managing their energy and psychological health. Yet, these are arguably the most important drivers of our long-term happiness and success. Managing our energy and psychological health provides the positive ‘fuel’ to help us achieve our career and life goals. It can also make us more resilient, adaptable, optimistic, and self-confident. 

Here are 7 keys to help improve your emotional and psychological health for the coming year and set you up for your best year yet.

1. Discover your purpose and stick to it 

People who discover their purpose and stay true to it are far more likely to be committed and engaged at work. They find deeper meaning in their work and have a clearer vision of what they want to achieve. This instills a deep sense of commitment and enables them to focus their skills and talents on what they are most passionate about. Studies show that when people have a clear and meaningful purpose and apply their natural talents to work towards this, they are far more likely to enjoy work, perform better and achieve greater career success.

2. Master your mindset

All of us will experience setbacks and difficulties during the year, although the nature and emotional intensity of these will vary significantly. Never allow yourself to become a victim of negative thinking and adverse circumstances. If you do, you’ll soon enter a vicious cycle of low self-confidence, pessimism, helplessness, and eventually depression. Remember that you are free to choose your mindset and how you respond to any situation, no matter how difficult. 

Even in the darkest moments when nothing seems to be going right, we have the power to find a positive way forward and not to be defined by setbacks, mistakes and adverse circumstances. We can all learn from the great wisdom of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, who pointed out in his bestselling book, Man’s Search for Meaning:

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

3. Challenge your inner critic 

All of us have an inner critic, even the most outwardly confident and successful celebrities, leaders, and entrepreneurs. But some learn to control these inner gremlins effectively while others find themselves overwhelmed by them. 

Don’t let your inner critic – limiting voices of self-doubt and fear – get the better of you. Listen carefully and write down the negative, limiting things you say to yourself. Treat these as if they were being said by an external person who is not fair, supportive, or rational. Challenge and question these points as if you were disputing something someone has said which is unfair or unjustified. Reframe these negative statements as positive, empowering ones. Write down these positive statements and look at them every day before work and whenever you are experiencing episodes of self-doubt or anxiety. Over time, your negative narratives will be replaced by positive ones. 

4. Choose to spend time with energy multipliers 

Research indicates that people’s emotions and mindsets are contagious. Spending time with people who are upbeat, resilient, and solutions-oriented will provide you with a positive and supportive network. Over time, this will multiply your positive energy, growth, and effectiveness, leading to greater happiness, wellbeing and performance. 

On the other hand, if you hang out mainly with negative, ‘glass half empty’ people who sap your energy and add no value then it’s likely you’ll develop a negative outlook to work and life.  It’s best not to get sucked into this vortex of negativity unless you want to spend all your time struggling through life. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should avoid friends and co-workers who have temporary setbacks and difficulties that cause them to experience inevitable emotional lows and difficulties. Always stick by these people and show compassion, empathy, and support to help them through their difficult patch. This builds trust, openness, and emotional closeness, all of which are pre-requisites for meaningful, satisfying and emotionally mature relationships.   

5. Declutter 

Don’t leave decluttering to the springtime. Decluttering your house and office at the start of each new year enables you to simplify your life. It will leave you feeling invigorated, unburdened, and satisfied. Studies show it can also boost your self-esteem, focus and quality of thinking. Tidying enables you to get rid of unnecessary possessions that don’t add value to your life as well as those that are associated with unhappy memories from the past. Gifting these items to a charity or person who needs them more than you will raise your spirits, as research shows that people derive happiness and joy by helping others. However, make sure you don’t go overboard and throw away possessions that have deep sentimental meaning and attachment to you, as getting rid of these might undermine rather than improve your emotional wellbeing. 

6. Focus on what’s going well 

Many people keep themselves so busy at work and home that they don’t take time to slow down and notice the good things happening in their life and around them. For example, we often fail to spot our co-workers doing great work or a friend or partner making a special effort on our behalf. Many even fail to notice and celebrate their own learning, progress, and professional achievements. They simply move on to the next thing and lose a valuable opportunity to enjoy the scenic ‘lookout points’ in their relentless quest to conquer the next peak. Take time to notice and be grateful for these special moments, however small, as this will enhance your wellbeing as well as the happiness of those around you.

7. Ditch negative news and social media 

Put yourself on a news and social media fast for a few weeks or become more selective about the types of media you consume. A lot of our traditional and online media pedal primarily negative news that gives rise to unnecessary anxiety, concerns, and worries, undermining our emotional wellbeing. The reason of course is simple – negative stories generally sell better than positive ones. 

Similarly, many social media platforms spread negative news, fake news and extreme views and opinions. This negatively biased content impacts our perspective about what is real and heightens our perceived threat level towards the world around us. Some platforms also encourage unhealthy peer-group comparisons that leave people feeling they are inferior, unsuccessful, or missing out. Taking a break from this negativity and refocusing your time on positive experiences (e.g., reading, learning a new skill or starting a new hobby) and people will enable you to build a positive and healthy mindset.    

Finally, remember that a happy life also requires a healthy diet and regular exercise so don’t forget to include these in your list of goals for 2022. Wishing you all a happy, successful, and healthy 2022.      

About the Author

James is a leadership and talent consultant, business psychologist, and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams, and organizations to optimize their talent, performance, and future success.

Before moving into consulting, James held corporate leadership roles in People and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. Since moving into talent consulting and assessment design, he has supported leaders and teams globally across many sectors and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Graze, LVMH, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury's, Swiss Re, Tesco, WSP and Yahoo! James has founded and run several ventures, including Strengthscope®, an international strengths assessment and development business, that he sold in 2018.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, and an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching. He is a regular writer and speaker on talent assessment and development, leadership, and the future of work.