How SMART Goals Help Make Mental Health Resolutions Successful

2018 goals notebook coffee house plant

The end of the year is here, and for most of us this is a time when we start thinking about how things can change in the new year. Many of us set up resolutions in the new year to be better, look better and act better.

Culturally, goals for the new year often focus on changing our physical selves. But what if we devoted some tried and true goal setting approaches to changing our emotional and psychological selves too?

As we prepare for the new year give some thought to how you’d like for your emotional life to be better in 2018. Would you like to practice better self-care? How about ending some old relationship patterns rooted in past hurt?

You might also seek to intentionally develop your understanding of yourself in a way you haven’t before. Take some time to give yourself the space you deserve in taking care of both your physical and mental health. Set your sights on some mental health-centered goals to help make this next year one of your best yet.

Goal setting and living up to those goals is no easy feat. Daily responsibilities can often get in the way. It’s not long after the new year skirts by that we find ourselves floundering at our goals.

This year is going to be different! This year let’s embrace the possibilities of what a healthier, happier you can bring. This guide will help you take stock of this past year, identify concrete strategies to make your goals achievable and help make 2018 far better than 2017.

Take Stock of the Past Year

During the holiday season it can be tough to maintain focus and not get too distracted. From school or work responsibilities, as well as social obligations, this time of year often flies by. As you begin to think about embracing the new year, it’s important not to rush to make decisions about what your goals should be. Instead actually set aside some time to sit back and take stock of the previous year.

You can review your year by setting aside 30 minutes (perhaps on a weekend day) to sit in quiet reflection with no distractions. Yes, this means putting all those devices away! Sit down with a pen and paper and examine the high points of the year. Then examine the low points. These could be across all sorts of areas of your life, from work to school to romance.

Once you have your highs and lows written down, take a moment and look at those highs. Are there contributions you made to enable those highs to occur? If so, great! Perhaps you can maintain those behaviors in the new year. You may even want to challenge yourself to take those behaviors just one small step forward.

Now, take a look at those lows. These difficult parts of your year are very important pieces of information. These low points can help you identify the circumstances that led to those events or feelings. Ask yourself, “Are there ways my behavior contributed to this or was this only circumstance?”

This introspection may help inspire some points of exploration around future self-improvement goals for the new year. If you’re able to identify behaviors or patterns that don’t sit well with you, write one down. Add a very small task you can do to work toward making that one behavior better.

Utilize SMART Goals

Part of the reason why many resolutions fail is not that they are bad goals to have, but we often don’t take the time to pare them down to easily definable and concrete, progressive steps. Utilizing the approach of SMART goals will assist you with moving forward with your goals gradually and help you have easily observable points of progress.

First, make your goals as SPECIFIC as possible. That is, if your goal is, “I want to eat healthier,” that is quite vague. Instead, try to focus on the ways in which you’d like to eat healthier. Would you like to eat the recommended daily amount of vegetables? What about eating less sugar regularly? When you are specific about your goals, it is much easier to identify progress and track any setbacks.

SMART goals are also MEASURABLE, meaning they are data-driven. If your plan is to be more fit in the new year, how do you intend to measure that? It might be helpful to track certain bodily measurements like waist, shoulders, chest, etc. These data points won’t lie and may be good ways to measure your changes over time.

If you’re looking to spend more time centering your mind through meditation or guided visualization, how much time would you like to devote to that practice? Whether it’s 10 minutes per day or 10 minutes per week, it’s important to have an easily measurable source of data that’s not subject to interpretation.

It’s also incredibly important for goals to be ACHIEVABLE. Sometimes resolutions can be lofty, and it might not be realistic or healthy to think you’re going to lose 10 pounds in the first month of the new year. Instead do some research to see how others have made progress in the area of your goal and learn if your goal actually fits your lifestyle in an attainable and achievable way. While no two stories or experiences are the same, it’s important to have some third-party structure to work from as you adjust and make your own standards

Along with your goals being achievable, it is important for your goals to be RELEVANT OR REALISTIC. Ask yourself, “Is this the right time to undertake this goal? And is this goal actually worthwhile for me?”

SMART goals are also TIME-BOUND, which means you set a reasonable time frame to achieve your resolutions for the new year. Would you like to start therapy within the first two months of the year? How about reaching your goal weight by Memorial Day? Could you practice self-care for a few minutes each day of the work week? These are all examples of time-bound goals you can consider in the new year.

Make Your Goals Personal

There are a lot of pressures out there to look or be a certain way, and this can certainly impact our resolutions for the new year. To boost motivation and capacity to achieve your goals it is paramount that these goals are personal and important to you. Without this strong internal desire for these things to change, you might find yourself facing failure, and sooner than you would like. Take a moment to ask yourself honestly not what you want to leave behind in the new year, but more so, “What do I want to gain?”

Published by

Jor-El Caraballo

Talkspace Therapist