In this day and age, we often see depictions on social media of self-care and idealized versions of what it means to be happy and mentally healthy. As we enter the new year, many of us seize the opportunity to create resolutions that can improve our lives. Identifying what affects your mental health might look different for another person when considering an individual's unique life circumstances.
Creating a list of resolutions can be exciting and daunting simultaneously! Let's begin with how we think of resolutions, redefining what it means. Let's ditch "resolutions" and think of them as goals towards improving your mental health.
Here are five suggestions on how to create mental health goals for the New Year;
1. Reflect on your specific needs
Taking time to reflect on areas of your life affecting your mental health can be the first step in creating meaningful goals. Ask yourself, what do I need? What is my definition of self-care? What are things that have worked for me before and things that have not? Remember that each individual is unique in what they need to improve their mental health.
2. Create SMART goals
What are SMART goals? Goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and time specific. Resolutions can also have downsides because they can easily set people up for failure when unattainable and can be broad and non-specific in changing behaviors. Start with smaller goals that are attainable. The small goals are the steps toward the top of the mountain.
3. Determine what some of your compromises are
With great success, there is hard work. Some goals require compromise. Asking yourself what some things you are willing to compromise. Will those compromises affect your lifestyle and your quality of life in a negative way, which can become counterproductive? Will those compromises bring positive
changes and outweigh the negatives?
4. Re-evaluate and be flexible as you go
Observing as you go is equally as important. If you see the negative impacts of such compromises in achieving those goals, having some flexibility and rethinking your strategies can make the process more sustainable. If some steps become overwhelming or unattainable, it's okay to re-evaluate and adjust.
4. Keep track of your progress and celebrate your small accomplishments
Accomplishing small goals can boost self-efficacy and the ability to follow through. Celebrate your achievements while working towards them as you achieve those small goals. Having incentives that can help your confidence in your ability to eventually achieve and sustain the long-term goals
you are inching towards them.
There are also some general ways to boost your wellbeing while working on your specific goals! Below are some scientifically proven ways to improve mental health:
Sleep - Getting enough sleep is a preventive step in mental health care. Not getting sufficient sleep has been proven to increase the risk of developing mental health diagnoses. Sleep deprivation can also lead to an unhealthy increase in cortisol levels, known as the "stress hormone." Find out how many hours of sleep are sufficient to feel refreshed the following day. Increasing sleep time in increments throughout the week can be a start and a more straightforward goal to attain as you build on creating healthy sleep habits.
Managing the use of social media - Studies have shown that excessive use of social media leads to a decline in mental health. Social media use also consumes time. Thinking back on the suggestions above, compromises can take time and effort. Minimizing the use of social media can have positive impacts. Setting your phone to the side during dinner time or disconnecting from social media use in increments of hours can free up time to engage with others.
Exercise - Exercise has been proven to enhance mental health and physical wellbeing. Starting with small goals such as engaging in exercise activities once a week and gradually increasing the days throughout the week. Testing out which exercises you enjoy and which make you feel the best can be a start.
Leisure time and Connecting with others - Spending time with family, friends, and activities we enjoy have psychological benefits. Time management is essential when engaging with family and friends and having some leisure time. Creating a weekly schedule outside of work or your usual activities in the week can help you map out how you distribute your time. Assess how much time you can dedicate to others and activities without disrupting your routine.
Finances- Financial difficulties are one of the major contributors to stress and poor mental health. Budgeting can be an option for managing finances. It might take work for some, so starting by observing your spending habits for the month and increasing awareness of areas to cut back is a start. Depending on individual circumstances, adjustments that can increase financial stability include obtaining a ne
w job as a long-term goal. Starting with small and attainable steps such as drafting a resume or creating a list of places to apply might be more manageable in beginning the process.
If you need help establishing SMART goals, here are some helpful tools and websites :
By: Carolay Ceballos
Mental Health Counseling Intern