As I sit down to write this blog on Jan 2, my mind of course runs to New Year resolutions, but since I am so over them, I thought instead of writing about staying emotionally healthy. And if you’re so inclined, you might want to think about turning some of these into intentions for the New Year, which I find more meaningful. An intention being something you hold in your consciousness over time.
Tip # 1: Connection. With new and old friends and family, and friends in both your home country and abroad.
I think of the old saying my mother used to tell me, “You can never be too rich or too thin.” Likewise, you can never have too many people you have a heartfelt connection with.
Psychological studies show us that as adults grow older, the single most important predictor to their happiness is the number and quality of the friendships they have. It’s even a greater predictor than whether you have a spouse.
So as we go into the new year you may want to spend some time thinking about how you can nurture the connections you already have and how you can build new ones in your host country.
Tip # 2: Exercise.
This is probably the most overused New Years resolution, only next to dieting.
I’d like to talk here about how exercise can actually boost your emotional and mental health. When you work up a sweat by exercising, your body releases hormones like dopamine, the feel good hormone, which acts as a natural anti-depressant.
If you’re a career expat and working hard, exercise is especially important. You might feel like you have no time as there are so many demands placed on you, but try putting your phone down for 30 minutes and going for a brisk walk or run instead.
That’s why you have an overall feeling of well being after exercising. There is only one other way to get this hormone released and that’s after sex, which brings me to my third tip.
Tip # 3: Sex. Have satisfying sex with a partner you’re emotionally connected to.
Sex without this connection can feel good physically, but for the feel good hormones to be released there also must be a true emotional connection.
You and your partner might try keeping your eyes open and looking into each other’s eyes during sex. This deepens the connection and allows both partners to open to sex in a new way.
Tip # 4: Passion.
Finding something you feel passionate about and pursuing your passion is another great way to boost your emotional health.
You may already know that you’re passionate about playing music or painting or learning languages. If so, devote time to those things on a very regular basis.
If you’ve not yet found a passion, this is the time to discover it. You might think about times in the past when you were engaged in an activity and you looked at the clock and hours had gone by instead of minutes. A sense of timelessness seems to go along with passion.
Or there might be some things you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time or inclination. Living abroad is a great time to try on new roles and reinvent yourself.
Whatever it is, see if it can also involve being around other people as there’s nothing like bonding over a shared passion to ignite a friendship.
Tip # 5: Giving back.
If you’re fortunate enough to be living abroad, chances are you might have had some help along the way, whether it was a mentor, teacher or family member.
Now you have the opportunity to give back or pay it forward. In terms of improved emotional health, there’s nothing like knowing you’re contributing to another person’s well being. It can also be a boost to your self confidence by showing you how much you know.
Again, the opportunities are limitless and depend in part on where you’re living. In most emerging market economies the need is so great you won’t have to look far.
If you speak English, (which I assume you do if you’re reading this article!) teaching English, either to kids or adults, can be a place to start.
Giving back can involve one person or a group of people. For your emotional health, try to do something other than giving money. The more involved you are personally, the more benefit you will reap.