The new year is just around the corner, and people often use this time to make resolutions for all the ways they’ll be better this year. Most resolutions fizzle out pretty quickly because they’re too unrealistic or are based on what we think we should want rather than what we actually need.
When it comes to mental health, New Year’s resolutions might not be the best way to move forward. Broken resolutions can lead to guilt and shame, neither of which are helpful if you’re suffering from a mental health disorder. Instead, if you want to change things in your life, consider setting goals. How are goals different from resolutions? Goals can be made any time of year, and, if done well, they can help you make incremental changes that promote a feeling of accomplishment.
Goals for Mental Health
Our culture is so focused on the physical that it might feel strange to set goals that have nothing to do with how you look. Goals related to weight, exercise, and diet are usually at least partly based on external motivation–doing things for approval from others. External motivation is not nearly as effective as internal motivation–doing things because you truly want to.
What makes you feel happy even when no one is looking at you? Chances are that your answer will have more to do with mental and emotional health than with your physical appearance. So what goals can you set that will help you improve your mental health? Consider the following options:
- Daily meditation – Just 10 minutes a day of relaxed focus on your breath can help you feel calmer, get perspective, release stress, control pain, be more self-aware, and much more.
- Mindful movement – Cultivating awareness of the mind-body connection can help relieve stress and anxiety. The phrase “calm body, calm mind” is supported by research, and one way to enhance mind-body awareness is through mindful movement. Gentle variations of yoga, qi gong, and tai chi are excellent ways to experience the body-mind connection.
- Making time for fun – How often do you “belly laugh”? Laughter is good medicine for mental health, so make fun a regular part of your schedule. Game nights with friends might do the trick, or playing silly games with your children.
- Social connection – Having time to yourself is important, but being alone too often is a breeding ground for mental health disorders. According to the CDC, “When people are socially connected and have stable and supportive relationships, they are more likely to make healthy choices and to have better mental and physical health outcomes.”
- Setting boundaries – The ability to say no is key to good mental health. Too often, people suffering from mental health issues compound the problem by trying to do too much and make others happy. Set a goal this year to get better at setting boundaries. Know what you need to thrive, and practice saying no to anything or anyone that compromises those needs.
- A gratitude practice – Gratitude improves mental health, according to many studies. Expressing gratitude, even in a journal, improves sleep, lowers stress, and improves relationships. Consider taking a few moments at the beginning or end of each day to list 2-3 things you’re thankful for–and then take the time to bask in that feeling of thankfulness.
- Weekly therapy sessions – If you’re not already working with a therapist, consider making therapy a goal for 2024. Therapy can help you heal past pain, handle strong emotions, gain confidence, and figure out what you want from life and how to get it.
- Better sleep – If you don’t already have a good sleep routine, consider making that a goal for the new year. Sleep hygiene improves mental and physical health and your overall quality of life. Check out these recommendations from the Sleep Foundation.
Setting SMART Goals
Once you have a mental health goal or two or three in mind, remember to start slowly. SMART goals follow the SMART acronym. They are:
- Specific (simple, sensible, significant)
- Measurable (meaningful, motivating)
- Achievable (agreed, attainable)
- Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based)
- Time bound (time-based, time limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive)
For example, if you decide you want to make more time for fun in your schedule this year, your SMART goal might look like this:
- S – To improve my mental health, I will make time for playfulness and fun in my life.
- M – I will reserve the first Sunday of each month for a fun activity with friends and family.
- A – I know of at least 3 people who would agree to a monthly game night. If we all make the commitment, we can hold each other accountable.
- R – I’ll know my goal is working because I’ll feel lighter and happier, especially when I look forward to the next game night.
- T – I can start the monthly game nights as early as January, and because we’ll all know that they happen regularly, we’ll be able to clear space for them.
Improving Your Mental Health at Eagle View
If you’re struggling to find mental health stability, maybe your first goal for 2024 should be to get professional treatment. Our team in Bettendorf, IA, is ready to meet you, listen to your concerns, and develop an individualized treatment plan that fits your needs. Contact us today to learn more.