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Setting Realistic Mental Health Goals - Any Time of the Year

We all have mental health goals: positive outlooks, managing stress, and avoiding burnout. While it's common to make resolutions on New Year's Day—like every other day of the year—it can be challenging to stick with them for more than a few weeks or months.

Achieving realistic mental health goals starts by understanding that care for our mental well-being is best done through patience and dedication over time, rather than grand gestures or quick fixes. 

That being said, no matter the season or occasion, setting intentional and achievable goals inspired by small steps and incremental lifestyle changes is an invaluable habit when aiming for long-lasting personal development.

Creating Resolutions

Focusing on long-term progress rather than immediate results when making mental health-related resolutions is always best. In other words, the key to achieving such realistic goals is not to strive for perfectionism, but to look for gradual changes that can lead us toward our desired outcome.

On that note, start with these two tips to help you ensure that your resolutions are attainable: 

Start Small

Be more pragmatic and start with small changes rather than setting big and difficult goals. It's usually easier to make actionable steps—like reading a book each week or meditating for five minutes every day—that are attainable and will eventually lead to bigger, long-term goals.

Think of "atomic habits." A term coined by New York Times best-selling author James Clear, it suggests that small daily steps, when compounded over time, eventually lead to transformative changes. You can slowly build towards a bigger purpose by making many small differences. After all, you cannot make big changes in an instant.

For example, suppose your mental health goal is to become more mindful and present in your day-to-day life. In that case, you could start by committing to pause for one minute each hour during the day to observe your breathing or simply see the environment around you. Then, you could commit to increasing the time by one minute each day or week. You can even take it up a notch by committing to keeping a gratitude journal or meditating for 15 minutes each day.

Think SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals is a good way to ensure that your resolutions are achievable and bring you closer to where you want to be. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specific: Craft your resolutions in a way that is clear and concise. For instance, "I will practice yoga for 30 minutes every morning" is much more specific than "I will exercise more."

Measurable: After setting your goal, decide how to measure your progress to help you monitor and track your improvements along the way and recognize when you have reached each milestone in your journey.

Achievable: You may become discouraged or give up entirely if a goal is too far out of reach, so only set resolutions within your capabilities. Avoid pursuing goals that are too difficult or involve taking on multiple tasks.

Realistic: Evaluate the resources you have available and the time you will be able to dedicate to your goal. The more doable your plan is, the more likely you will achieve it.

Timely: Have an end date for when you would like to fulfill your resolution. Having a timeline helps keep you accountable and motivated to reach the finish line with dignity.

Setting Goals is Not Just For January

Just like how we associate February with love, March with the start of spring, and December with Christmas, you don't necessarily need to wait until January 1st to set resolutions. The beauty of goal-setting is that you can make them at any time of the year and even on an ongoing basis.

No matter what season or occasion, you can develop and monitor your progress without waiting for the calendar year to flip over. You don't need to follow the trend and set resolutions in the new year; instead, be intentional about creating pursuits whenever you feel the urge.

Ways to Hold Yourself Accountable for Your Goals

Of course, even if you've set the most achievable goals and have the best intentions for yourself, you can easily lose motivation or become overwhelmed. Life sometimes gets the better of us, and we cannot control everything that happens.

Fortunately, you can tackle this dilemma through the following strategies to guarantee you stay on track and don't fall behind:

Write Down Your Goals and Post Them Somewhere Visible

Visual reminders with high foot traffic in your space can help you focus on your dreams. You can hand-write or print the most important ones and hang them in your bedroom, bathroom, office, or any other space you frequent. You can also put some in your bag, wallet, or car to remind you of what you are working towards when you're out and about.

Find an Accountability Partner

When you have someone to share your pursuits with, you can inspire each other and hold one another accountable. Having a support system helps you stay on track and keeps things fun. Plus, they can provide valuable feedback when you hit a bump in the road.

Set Mini-Deadlines

Big plans are always more manageable when broken down into smaller tasks. No wonder the most successful people swear by this technique, because it helps them manage their time better. It also provides a healthy, more balanced sense of accomplishment between the goals and deadlines you’ve set.

Track Your Progress

See that you keep tabs on your progress and achievements, as it allows you to recognize the value of your effort and celebrate your successes. That way, you have something tangible to look back on that reminds you of how far you have come on your journey.

Set Up Rewards or Incentives

There's a reason why so many employers use reward systems. When you have something to look forward to, it pushes you to the finish line. Keeping this in mind, setting up rewards or incentives is a great way to fuel your motivation and give yourself something to work towards. It can be anything from a night out, relaxation time, or even a slice of cake from your favorite store. 

Celebrate Your Wins

Goal-setting is hard work, so acknowledge your accomplishments along the way. Honor the successes and milestones you reach, no matter how small. And if you ever fall short of your expectations, don't beat yourself up. Instead, take the time to reflect on what went wrong and draw peace from any learning moments that may have arisen.

Ways to Keep Your Motivation When Working on a Larger Goal

How can you keep your motivation up and going regardless of external and internal hurdles you will face? Big plans come with a lot of responsibility, dedication, and hard work. With that said, here are some strategies to keep your inspiration strong:

Take Breaks

Pause, disconnect from the hustle and bustle, and give yourself breathing room when pursuing your goals. Breaks are vital for refueling your enthusiasm and helping you recharge from the demands of life.

Find Motivation in Unexpected Places

Look for sources of encouragement from your favorite books, movies, or songs, and use them to nudge yourself. Such a strategy helps reignite your ambition and gives you something to keep in mind when times get tough.

Surround Yourself With Positive-Minded People

Find people who share your aspirations and support your agenda if you want to achieve big things. The right kind of individuals can pick you up when you're feeling down and provide much-needed advice or a different perspective when it's needed. The help they can provide can also give you a boost or the push you need to succeed.

Remind Yourself of the Big Picture

When in doubt, take a step back and remember why you're doing what you're doing. Recall the rationale behind your pursuits to ground you and stay on track. Remember, challenges and emotions are temporary, but the outcome of your hard work is lasting.

Focus on Progress, Not Perfection

An inch forward is still an inch forward. Likewise, things done imperfectly are still better than nothing at all. So be patient and kind with yourself and accept you might make mistakes. After all, it's the progress you make that matters, not how perfect it is.

Stay Positive

Things don't always pan out the way we want them to, and it's okay. Avoid dwelling on what you can't do and look for ways to adjust and make the best of every situation. Look for the good no matter what and be your own cheerleader without downplaying or dismissing the tough parts of your journey.

Draw Strength from a Higher Power

If you are a person of faith, draw strength and courage from your beliefs. Let go of any fears or doubts and trust that everything will work out. Have confidence and trust, and remind yourself that even on your toughest days, you don't have to go through it alone.

Never Give Up

Above all, don't quit. Be persistent and trust that the universe has a plan, even if you don't know what it is. In life, the only real failure is giving up before you reach your destination. So with every challenge you face, remember that it's only a minor setback, and keep going until you finish.

Examples of Good Mental Health Goals

Now that you have a better understanding of goal-setting and how to stay motivated, here are some examples of mental health goals you can set for yourself any time of the year:

  • I will practice being more positive by journaling five reasons I'm grateful each morning to serve as a gentle reminder and instill positivity in me.
  • I will make time for self-care and carve out thirty minutes to an hour daily that's solely dedicated to myself.
  • I will take mental health days off to allow regular breaks to minimize stress and exhaustion.
  • I will find a creative outlet to explore different activities like painting, writing, or music to help me relax and express myself.
  • I will exercise regularly, engage in enjoyable physical activity, and make it part of my daily routine.
  • I will connect with others regularly, such as my friends and family, to stay connected and nurture my relationships.
  • I will develop and maintain a regular sleep schedule to prioritize getting a good night's rest to keep my energy levels up and my stress levels down.
  • I will challenge myself by setting short-term and long-term achievable goals that motivate me to grow and stay focused.
  • I will care for myself and nurture my body and mind by eating a balanced diet, drinking plenty of water, and avoiding unhealthy habits.
  • I will find joy in life and remember to appreciate the smaller things and make it a point to laugh more often.
  • I will increase self-awareness, focus on self-reflection, and better understand why I act, feel, and think the way I do.
  • I will practice gratitude by keeping in mind all the wonderful things I have in life and try to express appreciation more often.
  • I will seek help and remember that it's perfectly normal to need professional support.
  • I will improve my communication skills, be mindful of how I interact with others, and learn to express myself calmly and effectively.
  • I will practice mindfulness by taking regular breaks throughout the day to practice mindful breathing and help clear my head.
  • I will take time for relaxation, whether it's a five-minute break or a full day off.
  • I will set boundaries with others, be assertive, and learn to say "no" when necessary.
  • I will find a support system and build relationships with people who are accepting, understanding, and non-judgmental.
  • I will get organized, create a routine that works for me, and stick to it.
  • I will be patient, take one step at a time, and not rush to reach my goals.
  • I will give myself time to adjust and enjoy the process.
  • I will be kind to myself instead of beating myself up and use words of encouragement and kindness to motivate myself.
  • I will make time for hobbies and explore activities that make me happy and bring joy into my life.
  • I will stay optimistic and remember that positivity can help me stay focused and keep going.
  • I will find new interests, explore different hobbies or activities to help myself stay interested, and continuously challenge myself.
  • I will be open-minded and willing to try new things, even if they're outside my comfort zone.
  • I will care for your environment and create a comfortable living space to help boost my mood and mental health.

These are just a few examples of mental health goals you can set for yourself. Remember that while these may be challenging, they can help you feel better in the long run. You also won't see changes overnight, but you will feel healthier and more in control of your life by consistently working on these pursuits.

The Bottom Line 

You can choose any time—or times—in the 365 days of the year to set goals for better mental health. Whether you're looking to improve your relationships, focus on self-care habits, or challenge yourself in other ways, use the examples, tips, and techniques above to help create positive change in your life.

For more help with mental health goal-setting, call Jackson House for personalized advice and guidance. We're available to you 24/7, 365 days a year, to help you reach your highest potential and continue on the path to better mental health.

About the author

Jackson House

Jackson House

We built Jackson House because we realized there was a critical gap in our healthcare system and many individuals with mental illnesses and substance abuse problems were struggling because of it. While there are many outpatient treatment options and locked, inpatient facilities there was nothing in the middle. Nothing to help people who needed around the clock care but wanted to receive treatment voluntarily, on their own terms. Jackson House is different. We provide clients with the level of care they need in a welcoming environment. When you walk through our doors, we will meet you wherever you’re at and help you on your journey toward feeling better.

It's time to feel better

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.