Several weeks into each new year is a good time to check in with yourself about your mental health goals. It can be difficult to begin and maintain progress through your goals, especially this time of year, as we all try to regain our footing with our day-to-day schedules and responsibilities.
That’s why it’s incredibly important to take some time to reflect and re-group to see where you are with your mental health resolutions. Taking time to assess your progress is an invaluable part of the goal-setting process. Moving forward takes routine, evaluation, and consistent checking in.
So, how are you doing with your goals? Here are a few questions that you may want to begin by asking yourself.
- How have I been able to work towards my goals so far?
- What has worked so far? What hasn’t? And what needs to be changed?
- Looking at my mental health goals long-term, do they follow the SMART model or are there things that I need to change to make them more efficient?
- For the progress that I’ve made (and will make), how can I reward myself or create intentional opportunities for positive reinforcement?
Positive reinforcement is, by far the best way that we can do to motivate and make new behavior stick. As a therapist, I find that too often my clients struggle with finding motivation to work towards their goals and keep the process moving. Often they’re self critical and get down when there are setbacks. What they often miss are opportunities for rewards or reinforcement that are well thought out and planned throughout their goal-achieving process.
When most of us set goals, especially ones related to mental health, we envision attaining the goal as THE reward. While this may or may not be true, it can be hard to maintain motivation and patience as you do the very challenging work of improving one’s mental health. Therefore, why not periodically set up some small rewards along the way that will help you feel good, even if you have slip ups or get discouraged?
For example, if you’re hoping to get better control of your anxiety and self-critical thoughts, that can be tough work! Perhaps part of your plan is to check in with your online therapist regularly or read a self-help book to help you achieve that goal. Everyday life can certainly be disruptive in reaching your goal, which means it’s going to take intense concentration and focus to get to the end goal of managing your thoughts differently.
Therefore, setting up some small treats for yourself along the way might be helpful in sustaining your motivation and energy. For instance, you might gift yourself a nice dinner out after attending therapy for a month or working through the first quarter of your self-help book. Halfway through your process, you might schedule a massage or take a mental health day from work (or both!) so that you get some extra rest and downtime. No matter what rewards you put into place, you will be practicing self-care along the way and working towards your goal of treating yourself better. It’s a win-win.
And let’s not forget that if your mental health resolution progress has already slowed, it’s OK. Many of us are in the same boat. The good news is that every moment presents a new opportunity to start anew. You don’t have to be held prisoner by missteps. It’s never too late to regroup and start again.
After all, you deserve it.