Work, school, and chores keep us busy all the time. We have a routine that we follow and most of the time we feel like we know what we’re doing, what our purpose is, and what we aim to achieve. But then, there are moments of respite, when you can finally take a break from life and just relax. You brew a nice cup of coffee, turn on soft music in the background, decide to treat yourself to something nice, sit on the couch with your favorite movie on, and just when you’re about to play it, reality hits you like a ton of bricks.
What do you think you’re doing, watching a movie and relaxing as if you have your life figured out?
Hint, a barrage of images of others who you think have achieved so much more than you have, followed by a sense of disappointment in yourself and worry about the future. You still do watch the movie and drink your coffee, and the music continues playing, only now, your mood has turned sour and you absolutely fail to relax in the time that you were meant to do exactly that.
Did that scenario get you thinking if you really know what you want in life? Have you ever thought about where you want to see yourself in ten years’ time? Do you feel like you’re sleepwalking through life without a clear goal or direction in mind? Well, that’s where goal setting comes in.
This article gives detailed information about goal setting and how it plays a role in improving mental health. The article includes:
- What are goals and goal setting?
- Setting goals for mental health
- Types of goals
- Benefits of setting goals
- Setting achievable goals: The SMART technique
- How does goal setting work at Mooditude?
- Reviewing and reassessing goals
What are Goals and Goal Setting?
A desired or anticipated outcome that functions as the main driving force behind the decisions you make and actions you do can be called a goal or objective. It is the motivating force that not only gives direction to your life but also shapes it into a definite form. In simpler words, a goal is a light at the end of a tunnel that you’re trying to reach or a landing at the top of a long staircase.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, ‘Goals are mental representations of desired outcomes.’ Thus, the specific target that an individual or a group aims to achieve in a specific duration of time through a meticulous plan can be defined as a goal.
Goal setting then is the process through which said individual or group intends to achieve the desired objective. As opposed to having a vague idea of what your desired goal is and living life passively, hoping to achieve it somehow without a proper plan, goal setting entails a conscious acknowledgment and identification of your goals and a meticulous strategy to make it easier to attain these goals by taking control of life instead of living passively.
Setting Goals for Mental Health
Since the main purpose of goal setting is to foster growth and progress, in recovery and mental healthcare fields, setting personal goals in terms of treatment is a great way to overcome certain mental health barriers. Poor mental health is related to a lack of energy, motivation, an overall decline in performance, and a loss of interest in activities. Setting goals and devising plans and strategies to attain them is a brilliant method to reacquire that lost motivation, allowing gradual improvement in overall mental health.
Additionally, since people with poor mental health may feel like they have lost control of their life, setting personal goals and working towards obtaining them can help them regain control over their lives again. Goal setting is used commonly in different psychotherapies as well, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal psychotherapy, problem-solving therapy, etc.
Types of Goals
In the field of mental healthcare, goal setting is a trusted method of keeping track of patient progress and aiding recovery by helping them set and chase achievable goals. Broadly, goals can either be long-term or short-term.
Short-term goals are usually easier to achieve, do not require a lot of effort, and serve immediate purposes. Often short-term goals are meant to bring you closer to your ultimate objective or long-term goal. They are a source of constant motivation and make achieving long-term or ultimate goals a less daunting task. They are also helpful in keeping track of performance, maintaining focus, and highlighting areas needing improvement. For instance, when you aim to read ten books in two months, you’re bound to find the task daunting and it is easier to fall prey to procrastination. Instead, aiming to read 2 chapters of a single book each day may not seem like a tough target at all and you might even end up exceeding it.
As opposed to short-term goals, long-term goals are broader in scope and less specific. These are usually tasks that you wish to attain further in the future. These kinds of goals require rigorous planning and constant motivation — which can be obtained from completing short-term goals. Long-term goals give life a direction and allow you to strategize accordingly. For instance, a long-term goal can be that you want to improve your relationship with a family member or friend. This cannot be done overnight and requires patience, time, and a lot of work.
5 Benefits of Setting Goals
Goals are a key element in fostering personal growth. Regardless of whether they are meant to be a means of treatment for mental health problems or are mere tools to improve the quality of your life, goal setting has several benefits.
1. Provides Direction
Setting goals provides one with direction. Instead of aimlessly and passively strolling through life, it provides you with a target to aim your hypothetical arrow at. Once the direction is confirmed, it becomes easier to devise a route or a plan to reach it.
2. Constant Source of Motivation
Setting goals, especially short-term goals, can assist in maintaining motivation. Usually, it’s easy to become demotivated and lose track and focus when suffering from a mental health issue. Working towards attaining short-term goals on a regular basis ensures a constant supply of motivation.
3. Provides a Clear Focus
It’s easy to lose focus in life when faced with challenges. People who suffer from mental health issues tend to lose focus of what they want in life and fall into endlessly demoralizing thoughts about their condition. Setting goals can help clear the fog of depression and allow you to clearly focus on your ultimate objective.
4. Provides Control Over Life
Many people suffering from mental health conditions seem to feel like they have lost control over their lives and that their mental illness is in control now. Having achievable objectives can help a person feel more in control of his or her life.
5. Boosts Confidence
People suffering from depression and anxiety are prone to have low self-esteem and confidence in themselves. Being able to attain something of their own accord can give them the boost in confidence that they are desperately in need of.
Setting Achievable Goals
Setting goals can be a daunting task but it’s easier when you break it down into smaller steps. You begin with determining the bigger picture, that is, the ultimate objective that you plan on achieving by the end of a set time period and then you break it down into smaller steps that are more achievable. Following are some tips on how to set achievable goals that can benefit your mental well-being.
The SMART Technique
The SMART technique ensures that each goal that you set for yourself is carefully devised and is trackable. SMART is an acronym that stands for:
- S = Specific: The goal that you’re setting should not be broad, rather it should be narrow and specific so that it’s easier to strategize how to achieve it by putting together a plan that caters to the particular goal.
Example: I will mend my relationship with my parents.
- M = Measurable: An important aspect of setting achievable goals is that they should be measurable, that is, easy to track. Setting checkpoints to evaluate your progress allows you to assess if your strategy is working.
Example: I will mend my relationship with my parents and try to see them at least three times a week.
- A = Achievable: Goals should always be achievable. You know your potential better than anyone and having unrealistic expectations of yourself can set you up to fail. For this, self-awareness is especially crucial. It also entails that you’re fully aware of and ready to do what you have to do in order to achieve that goal.
Example: I will mend my relationship with my parents by working on the problems caused by my anger issues and try to see them at least three times a week.
- R = Relevant: When setting a goal, it is necessary that it’s relevant to your ultimate objective in life and thus should contribute towards achieving that in the long run as well.
Example: To achieve my goal of fixing my behavioral issues I will mend my relationship with my parents by working on the problems caused by my anger issues and trying to see them at least three times a week.
- T = Time-Based: It’s best to establish a time frame in which to attain your desired outcome. An end-date functions as a constant source of motivation and allows you to remain focused.
Example: To achieve my goal of fixing my behavioral issues, I will begin with mending my relationship with my parents within a month, by working on the problems caused by my anger issues and trying to see them at least three times a week.
How Does Goal Setting Work at Mooditude?
Mooditude is a mental health platform that guides you to your happiness in a safe and supportive space. It provides facilities for self-care, mood tracking, mental health screening, goal setting, and more. Mooditude offers a range of activities and challenges to keep you motivated by allowing you to set short-term goals and follow progress.
Mooditude offers a selection of challenges that you can accept and also allows you to follow your progress throughout. In addition, it offers advice regarding how often it is professionally recommended to do a task on a particular day to improve mental health. The various goals Mooditude offers include:
You can set a goal for yourself to commit to journaling from 1-5 times a day. Journaling is a proven technique to help cope with mental health issues. Mooditude advises journaling at least once a day for best results.
Mooditude suggests sticking to a routine to practice mindfulness through meditation. Merely 10 minutes of meditation every day, divided into 3 minutes, 2 minutes, and 5-minute sessions in the morning, afternoon, and night respectively can have visibly positive effects. However, you can set your own goals if you desire to do them for longer periods.
Physical activity is crucial to maintaining good mental health. However, it can get difficult to stick to a routine. Luckily, with just 10 minutes of activity like brisk walking, visible improvement in mental well-being can be observed. Set a goal to get at least 10 minutes of exercise daily to ensure you don’t slack out.
Mental health can impact sleep patterns drastically, leaving you in a lethargic state throughout the day. Research has proven the connection between insomnia and depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the duration of healthy sleep is about 7-8 hours for an adult. Set a goal to ensure you get adequate sleep and track how often you wake up in between.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Exercises:
CBT exercises can help combat several mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, poor self-esteem by helping cope with, and challenge irrational negative thoughts through several simple exercises. Mooditude suggests doing one CBT exercise a day is a reasonable goal.
Living a mindful life can not only be a means of improving relationships, it can also increase feelings of well-being, decrease emotional reactivity, heighten empathy, and improve emotion processing skills. Mindfulness activities are simple and fun to do. Aiming to be mindful at least 2-3 times a day is a reasonable goal to set for beginners.
Mental illnesses can be isolating and isolation can be harmful. Mooditude suggests setting an easily achievable goal to interact with either family, friends, acquaintances, or strangers to maintain social connections.
Practicing gratitude can reduce stress and anxiety levels along with stimulating higher levels of activity. Being grateful teaches you to live in the present instead of being stuck in the grief of the past. Counting your blessings daily should be an aim you should strive to accomplish.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Regardless of how common coffee consumption is, it is proven to be linked with higher levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. One cup of coffee can increase anxiety and impact sleep for up to 48 hours. It may be a tough task to accomplish but Mooditude can help in setting a personal goal to limit coffee consumption and track progress.
Light therapy is a brilliant treatment method for seasonal affective disorder, anxiety, depression and more. It can aid in improving mood, rejuvenating energy, and combatting sleep problems. Busy schedules may limit us indoors but setting a goal can motivate you to go out and get more sun.
Medications have several side effects, one of which is altering mood-regulating chemicals of the brain when taken long-term. For people suffering from medication-induced mood and anxiety disorders, goal setting can be a great way to keep track to be aware of which medication is the culprit behind your disorder.
Limit Substance Abuse
For the brain to heal, it is necessary that we indulge in activities that are healthy for the body as well. In addition, we must also cut down on harmful activities and habits. Substance abuse is a leading cause of several mental health issues. Setting a personal goal to limit substance abuse can gradually aid in cutting it down to zero.
Reviewing and Reassessing Goals
Simply setting goals at the start of the year and never going back to review them, reassess them, or track your progress towards them is pointless. Revisiting your goals can help determine if they are still relevant, if your strategy has proven to be effective, and check for progress. It can also allow you to determine if you’re ready to advance from beginner goals to set tougher goals that may require additional effort.
The frequency with which to reassess your goals is dependent on the kind of goal you have set. Regardless, it should be a known fact that regular revisits are the correct way to go about it. For short-term goals that serve as stepping stones towards the ultimate goal, checking in every 5-7 days is recommended.