A new year is right around the corner, which means a new opportunity for change. This last year has been tough for everyone, with so much uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the unusual adjustment of staying home during a quarantine. Everyone seems to be ready to start over, which is why it’s a great time to set some mental health goals for yourself in the new year.
Taking the time to do things such as finding a new hobby like diamond painting or learning how to integrate meditation into your daily life can help you get into a routine that reduces stress and anxiety while boosting your self-esteem and sense of motivation. Check out some of these top goals you can aim for to improve your health in the upcoming year.
Why You Should Set Mental Health Goals
Regardless of where you are in your personal mental health journey, setting specific goals can help you better manage your thoughts and emotions while working toward creating the life you desire. Short-term and long-term goals give you something to focus on, and they can give you a reason for getting out of bed each day.
Setting mental health goals allows you to break overwhelming tasks down into smaller, easier pieces. Telling yourself that you want to feel less anxious or have good mental health provides zero guidance and isn’t very actionable. However, setting goals to practice self-care, do more art or pick up a healthy hobby will help you work toward the primary objective. Breaking those big, overreaching goals down into small goals also provides a sense of accomplishment, which can boost your mental health while working toward the larger goal.
1. Set SMART Goals
If you are new to setting goals, be sure to take advantage of the SMART goal method. Setting SMART goals enables you to establish goals that you are much more likely to reach because they are specific, clear and attainable. So, what are SMART goals?
SMART is an acronym that stands for all of the things attainable mental health goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Making sure the goals you choose meet each of these standards can help provide the focus, clarity and motivation needed to reach them. This proven method encourages you to refine your objective and set a date for completion.
2. Practice Self-Care
The phrase “self-care” can refer to a lot of things — your emotional well-being, your physical health — but in this context, we’re taking a more general approach. It can mean anything from a daily skincare routine to treating yourself with a shopping spree from time to time. Learn how to listen to your needs and take the steps to do what your body needs. Perhaps self-care for you could mean setting a more strict daily routine to keep you on task.
Make a list of what you would like to accomplish and determine your self-care routine from there. Taking care of yourself is wonderful for your mental wellness and practicing self-care is an attainable goal to set for yourself. Once you’ve made self-care a habit, you’ll likely experience better mental health and decreased symptoms of depression, anxiety, etc.
3. Pick Up a New Hobby
Hobbies provide measurable stress relief and give us something to look forward to. But with so many different hobbies available to explore, where should you start? The easiest way is to look to your own personal interests. That way, no matter what you choose, you win! In addition to enjoying the relaxation and excitement, picking up a new sport like basketball can improve your physical health, while choosing something more artistic like diamond painting can improve your mental health and overall wellness. Hobbies are so important and benefit people struggling with mental illness because they generate a sense of accomplishment and productivity in relation to an activity that we enjoy just for the sake of doing it.
Trying activities like meditation painting has been shown to greatly reduce feelings of stress while also helping to improve cognitive function in adults. As we age, it’s important to continue trying new projects and activities, as it encourages our brain to create new neural pathways, strengthening our brains and our ability to retain memories.
4. Start Meditating Every Day
It’s not often that we have the opportunity in our day to simply turn off our thoughts and worries, but when you begin to explore the practice of meditation, you can learn ways to better manage your concentration. This practice helps us to shake off the stress of the day by focusing on another thought — a mental picture, a repeated mantra, a guided scenario. Plus, it’s excellent for both your mental and physical health.
Meditation also teaches mindfulness, elevating our sense of self-awareness which can help us in other aspects of life. If you’ve never tried meditating before, there are plenty of resources available to you, from meditation apps to YouTube videos that will walk you through exactly what to do. Try to make it a goal this year to meditate every morning or night to calm your mind and improve your focus.
5. Learn How to Set Boundaries to Protect Your Mental Health
Boundaries are so important to our mental health. When you find yourself saying “yes” too often, you’re risking burning yourself out, causing greater levels of stress and anxiety and negatively impacting your well-being. Becoming more in tune with your emotions will help you understand your own boundaries and learn how to express this to others. This can be applied from the workplace to your personal life. Remember that setting boundaries is not unkind. No one has to say yes all the time!
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6. Get in Touch with Your Emotions
The inability to express our emotions can leave us feeling anxious, angry, confused and stressed, which is why it’s so important to develop your emotional intelligence and learn how to communicate with yourself and those around you.
If you’re aware that you struggle with expressing your emotions, try talking to your closest friend or family member and open up just a little bit at a time until you become more comfortable with sharing. If this seems like too big of a first step for you, then consider finding a mental health professional to talk to.
Therapy has become increasingly popular as more people recognize the benefits of exploring your thoughts, experiences and feelings. Additionally, therapy will help improve your communication skills and, in turn, your ability to express your emotions, as well as provide insight into your life. Utilizing mental health services is nothing to be ashamed of. If you are struggling with your emotions or just feel like you need to talk to someone, seeing a therapist is no different than any other type of health care.
Figure out what your limits are and be direct with people so that they know exactly what you need and what you are capable of doing. Practicing self-awareness can help with setting boundaries, as you are more aligned with how you feel and what you need.
7. Write in a Journal Every Day
If learning to express yourself and get in touch with your emotions is something you feel you should work on this year, then writing in a daily journal should also be on your list. Journaling is a kind of self-therapy that allows you to express yourself, prioritize goals and concerns, as well as gain insight into experiences.
You should make an attempt to write in your journal every day — even if it’s just a short entry. Looking back on your entries can help you pick up on negative thought patterns or provide further insight into problems and how you choose to react to them. Journaling is an excellent way to work through challenging situations without the help of a therapist, too. Plus, it can help you develop better coping skills.
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8. Cut Down on Social Media Time
If you feel like social media has triggered, or is contributing to, mental health problems in yourself or a loved one, you’re not alone. In today’s tech-savvy world, we’re constantly surrounded by our gadgets. While they have made our lives easier in some ways, they have also impacted our mental health in some not-so-positive ways. Social media can ignite feelings of inadequacy and unhappiness, as it begs us to compare ourselves to others. This is something that everyone experiences, but the more that we practice self-awareness and build our confidence, the less this will impact us.
Cutting down on your social media time is one way to build more positive thinking habits, as well as recognizing that comparisons are just not helpful. We can’t truly know all that is happening in someone else's life just from following their social media profile.
Set Yourself Up for Success
Start the new year off right with a few attainable, mental health goals to get yourself in a better headspace and keep you motivated all year long. Pick a few of the tips above that you think are a priority to you and don’t beat yourself up if you’re not meeting all of your goals right away. After all, they are just goals, not rules.
Do your best to work towards your ultimate goal by implementing healthy habits such as writing in a journal, expressing your emotions, crafting with diamond painting, exercising — whatever is going to make you feel great and help you lead a healthier, happier life.