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  • Writer's pictureAshton Rose

Setting Goals for Mental Health and Self-care

We’ve talked about setting goals in the past: how important they are, how they can benefit you, and some tips for setting good goals. But that post was about all sorts of goals. Today, I want to focus on setting goals for mental health.

Although it sucks to talk about, there’s a lot of bad stuff happening in the world right now. Which means now, more than ever, it is important to take care of yourself and prioritize your own mental health.

So today, let’s talk about setting goals for mental health, why it’s important, and how you can create goals to help you improve your overall wellbeing.

Resolutions vs. goals

With it being a new year, resolutions are being talked about a lot right now. But the thing is, most New Year’s resolutions don’t last— in fact, for some people, they’re treated as a joke. Why is this?

It’s simple: New Year’s resolutions aren’t goals, and don’t have a way to be tracked, measured, or planned.

That’s the key difference between resolutions and goals. Goals should be specific, measurable, and attainable. You should also be able to come up with a concrete plan to achieve your goals.

But, resolutions can be turned into goals. For example, if your resolution for 2022 is to “improve my mental health”, you can turn that into a plan for specific self-care ideas and other methods to boost your mental health.

Why is it important?

Far too often, mental health is seen as a secondary priority, something to be worried about “after I finish X.” Or, it’s something we say we want to work on, but don’t really take the time to plan out how to do that.

But taking care of yourself is very, very important. Surviving in the world that we live in isn’t easy, so you should do everything you can to make sure that you’re staying healthy— not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Setting mental health goals helps you stay dedicated to improving your mental health, and reminds you to make it a priority. If you have concrete goals to follow, then not only can you prioritize self-care, but you’ll have a way to look back and see how far you’ve come.

Turning self-care ideas into goals

At first, it may seem challenging to come up with self-care goals. We’ve all heard of self-care activities, thought exercises, and other ways to improve mental wellness. But how do you turn those into smart goals for mental health?

Well, there are a few ways you could do that. Let’s take a look at some.

Look at areas of improvement

One place to start could be by looking at areas where you want to make improvements. Since we’re talking about mental health, these shouldn’t just be work or social life— unless those directly correlate to a facet of your mental health.

Instead think about thought patterns, challenges, or mental illness symptoms you may struggle with. Take a look at what’s going on in your mind, and find the parts of it that make you less happy or cause you distress.

Once you identify these thought patterns, challenges, or symptoms, you have a what. Now you just need the how.

The how will vary, depending on what you’re dealing with and what is helpful for you. As I often advocate for, talking to a therapist or other professional can be very helpful in setting goals for mental health.

I’ll give an example from my life: I often stress about having to switch tasks or remember to be somewhere at a certain time (for example, stopping homework to go get dinner). But something I can do to help with that is set alarms for a few minutes before I need to switch tasks or leave. That way, I don’t have to stress about remembering when to stop what I’m doing.

To add another layer of self-care, I can put kind notes on these alarms. Then I’m talking kindly to myself and lowering stress levels, which can help improve my mental health.

Think about activities you enjoy

Another good strategy, especially when it comes to self-care goals, is to think about activities that you enjoy. Part of mental wellness— although certainly not all of it— is taking time to do things that bring you joy.

Make a list of activities that aren’t stressful to you, and which make you feel better. This could be anything from reading a book to going out with friends.

Once you have this list, it should be fairly simple to incorporate it into your daily life. You could schedule time for specific activities, or schedule general self-care time and then pick something off the list to do.

One thing that can get in the way of these kinds of goals for mental health is when you enjoy activities, but have a hard time doing them. In these scenarios, it’s helpful to either schedule time to do them with others, ask others to hold you accountable, or find a way to make the activity more exciting for your brain.

For example, I really like journaling, and find it very helpful for me. However, most days, I struggle with getting myself to actually pick up the pen and do it. My solution? Add a nerdy element to make it seem more exciting.

I’ve started keeping my journal using Tolkien’s Elvish alphabet. Because I’m a language and Tolkien nerd, this makes the activity even more exciting, and makes it feel even more like I’m practicing something, not just doing a random activity.

Little tricks like this can be great for when you want to do something but have trouble starting. Sometimes, setting goals for mental health means thinking outside the box.

A few other goal tips

Whether you use one of these methods or something else, here are a few other tips for setting goals for mental health:

  • Break them down as much as you can. The smaller you make your steps, the more achievable they will feel.

  • Make sure you have a concrete goal. If what you want is more abstract (eg. stop worrying so much), find a way to make it into something more concrete (eg. identifying sources of anxiety and coming up with strategies to manage them).

  • Make it fun! This is all about caring for yourself, so have fun with it and don’t be afraid to get a little weird. Anything that makes you feel better (and which isn’t harmful) is a good goal!

As we ring in the New Year, I hope you’ll take some time to think about this and ponder how you can incorporate more goals for mental health into your life. Taking care of yourself comes first, and it can be helpful to create a plan for how you want to do that.

Do you have other ideas about goals for mental health? Questions? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know by leaving a comment below or tagging us on social media (@llctherapeutic on Twitter and @therapeutichealingjourney on Instagram).

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