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People need to learn to put their mental health and their happiness first.

“New year, new me” is a common phrase used by many at the start of a new year. This saying implies that a person wants to better themselves, perhaps academically, for example. Included in this mindset of self-reflection should be a greater emphasis on self-care. 

What many college students especially need is a moment to stop and tend to their personal needs. The practice of "putting yourself first" is something that should be practiced daily for mental health benefits and that no one should feel guilty for doing so.

Practicing putting yourself first is something that can easily be done daily in small ways. For example, if someone has a stressful day ahead of them, like one that involves studying for an exam, they may want to start their day with an hour-long walk through nature to help clear their headspace.

According to online therapy website Talk Space, nature is meditative and calming and is known to improve negative mental health. Putting oneself in this positive headspace may prove to be the cure-all for dealing with a day they’re not looking forward to.

Other practices like scheduling an hour out of a busy day to watch Netflix or just getting lunch with a friend are personal ways that can improve mental productivity for the rest of the day. Specifically,Harvard University cites the negative psychological effects of sleep deprivation, like anxiety. So, if a student feels tired during a busy day of studying, taking a nap could actually be beneficial in improving their headspace for the rest of the day and, therefore, the effectiveness of their studying.

Other ways of putting oneself first may not be as simple but could be effective in improving mental health in the long run. For instance, maybe there's a person in someone’s life who's a negative presence, creating a toxic environment whenever they’re around. A study from 2007 showed that people in negative relationships were more likely to develop heart problems than those in positive relationships. It's important to remember that personal well-being is important and that focusing on oneself will improve your well-being.According to psychology website PsychCentral, among the first steps in ending a toxic relationship are getting out of denial and identifying a pros and cons list of the relationship.

Although these small steps may seem simple for the most part, many people tend to feel guilty when putting themselves first.One website called The Practical Balance aims to help readers live a more balanced life and talks about the concept of "burnout" and the instant guilt that follows from taking a break to avoid it. 

The article talks further about mental health improvements from taking a break and that feeling guilty for doing something for oneself is an unhealthy side-effect that people need to work to overcome. A quote at the end of the article says, "Work well, rest well, and most of all, enjoy it," which could prove to be an important motto for readers trying to beat their guilt. 

In general, putting oneself first is practicing self-love, and reflecting daily on personal needs is a healthy habit that should be more normalized.

Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology major. Contact Josie at hanekljr@dukes.jmu.edu.