Goal Setting For Good Mental Health

We regularly talk about setting goals in different areas of our lives. In work, for example, even ‘to-do’ lists are, in fact, mini goal setting exercises which we do daily or weekly. In our personal lives, we often set goals for physical health issues such as stopping smoking or losing weight, or even for practical things such as having the kitchen done or moving house.

When we think about goal setting, however, we don’t usually think about mental health – even though this has the greatest impact on our quality of life.

Goal setting is all about making positive change, so why does mental health often get overlooked?

For some reason, mental health and physical health still haven’t quite got equal billing yet. Perhaps that’s because physical health is easier to understand and more visible. Certainly, if we are asked about our health, it’s easier, for example, to say that you’re still shaking off a nasty cold, rather than disclosing anxiety or depression, which can feel uncomfortable or exposing. Things ARE changing but it sadly sigma still exists.

But mental health is so important to us, so what sort of goals can you set to promote emotional well-being and happiness?

  • Practice relaxation on a regular basis. Life can be stressful so a goal which promotes relaxation and calm can only have positive benefits for both physical and mental well-being. The first step here is to find the relaxation techniques and activities that suit you best – and then practice them.
  • Look closely at your relationships and remove toxicity. We all have that one friend or family member that literally ‘sucks the life’ out of us, that reacts negatively to every positive suggestion, that constantly takes but never gives in return. Perhaps now it’s time to ask yourself some searching questions about these sorts of relationships … and then make some changes. There is no rule that friends or even family members need to be in your life forever – remember that it’s your life and you make the rules.
  • Set boundaries in both your personal life and at work. You may feel that it’s unreasonable for colleagues to be emailing or phoning you in your leisure time (it is!). However, if you always respond, then the message that you are giving out is that it’s perfectly acceptable. Work out your own boundaries and stick to them. Likewise, if you are always on-call for a friend to the detriment of your own mental health then it’s time for a conversation about what your boundaries are and how your needs can be met too.
  • Limit time on social media. A BBC Future article (2018) references a study by the charity Scope, which points to more 50% of young women experiencing lower self-esteem having spent time on social media. A further study by researchers at Penn State University suggests that viewing other people’s selfies lowers self-esteem because of negative comparisons with their own lives.
  • Learn to let anger go. Sometimes we hold on to bad situations so much that it impacts our own health. Accept that some situations or people may not change. Some things are out of our control and however much we rail against that, it changes nothing. Moving on, however, IS in our control.
  • Look after yourself in an active way. Good mental health doesn’t just happen. We are often more pro-active with physical health but mental health is exactly the same – we sometimes need to work at it.