Written by: Tiffany Bartell
Editor’s note: The following article is written by a counseling professional from Counseling Services in partnership with the Southern Accent.
The beginning of a new year tends to signal the widespread sharing of New Year’s resolutions, mottos or a chosen “Word of the Year.” COVID-fatigue has made many reluctant to commit to sweeping changes, and it can feel more doable to find a softer approach to choosing goals for a new chapter. When thinking about beginnings, taking a mindful moment, with self-compassion, can be helpful in guiding the first step forward.
Setting goals can be done in a mental-health-friendly way by keeping a few things in mind. The first step in creating a healthy goal is to make sure that it is a SMART goal. SMART is an acronym for five tips in goal setting. The first characteristic of a healthy goal is to make sure they are specific (S), measurable (M), achievable (A), relevant (R) and time bound (T).
Setting a goal of “getting healthier” can be ambiguous and hard to both start and know when it is finished. A goal of walking outside, sleeping seven to eight hours each night or starting counseling is an easier goal to set, monitor and have a sense of completion with at the end of the year.
Another characteristic of a healthy goal is that it has space for life to happen with progress instead of perfection as the measure of success. If I want to exercise six days a week, my goal will most likely be to exercise three to four times per week and anything beyond that is extra. That way, I can have busy weeks or other challenges that need to take priority without feeling that I have to sacrifice my goals.
The last tip is to make your motivation for setting health goals healthy. Investing in your wellness, mental health or physical health has the best outcome when it is done with self-compassion and kindness.