5 Tips for Setting and Keeping Mental Health Goals

By: Jayson Tripp, MD


According to U.S. News , 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February. If you want to be one of the people who succeeds, keep reading.   

Setting goals and reaching them is very beneficial to your mental health. However, not reaching goals can also increase feelings of depression and anxiety. So how do you make sure you stick to your goals and reap the positive benefits? In this blog, we will discuss 5 tips for setting and keeping goals. 

1. Identify the Areas of Your Life You Want to Improve

When setting goals, the first thing you need to do is identify the area of your life that you want to improve. Just a few areas of your life that you may want to improve include:  

  • Physical health  
  • Mental health  
  • Education  
  • Employment  
  • Finances  

Evaluate your life and try to pick out the things that you would like to change. Then you’re ready to start setting goals.  

2. Identify Your Overall Goals

After you identify the areas of your life you want to focus on, you can set your overall goals. Your overall goal could be something like manage your mental health, finish college, get a graduate degree, find a job, buy a house, or doing anything else that you want for your life.  

3. Set SMART Goals

When setting goals or resolutions, many people stop after they’ve identified their overall goals. But setting a general, non-specific goal like managing your mental health is what causes people to fail to reach their goals. And studies show  that these types of goals also cause people with depression to feel worse. So general or overall goals are a good starting point but definitely not where you should stop. 

Once you’ve identified your overall goals, you need to set smaller, more specific goals that will help you reach your overall goals. When setting these goals, remember the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.  


The first thing to keep in mind when setting goals is to make them specific. Research  shows that when you set specific, manageable goals and reach them, the levels of dopamine in your brain increase, making you feel good about yourself.  

So perhaps you decide to set a goal to track your mood  so that you and your psychiatrist can better understand your symptoms, triggers, and other factors affecting your mental health.  


The M in SMART stands for measurable. If you set a measurable goal, you can more easily hold yourself accountable. Sticking with the mood tracking example, maybe you decide that you are going to track your mood at least five days a week for a month or even every day. Now you not only have a specific goal but also a specific amount that you can keep track of daily.   


The next letter, A, is for attainable. You need to set goals that are possible to achieve because, as we said earlier, achievable goals help improve your mental health. So if you don’t think you’ll be able to track your mood every day, start out by setting a goal to do it three to five days a week, giving yourself room for days that you may forget. Adjust your goals to your personality and habits to help yourself succeed.  


The next guideline for SMART goals is that they need to be relevant. In other words, how are they helping you meet your overall goals? You should also consider how your goals fit into your current situation. Will they fit into other aspects of your life like school or work?  

So if your overall goal is to gain control of your mental health, tracking your mood daily will definitely help you reach that goal. 


The last aspect of your goal is that it should be time-bound. Or in other words, you need to give yourself a deadline. The deadline helps make your goal more specific and measurable. So if your goal is to track your mood daily or at least three times a week, then put a time limit on that.  

Perhaps you decide to track your mood every day for a week. Or maybe you decide to do it at least three days a week until your next psychiatry appointment so you can go over the results with him/her. Remember the other aspects of SMART goals and pick a time limit that fits with your habits and lifestyle.  

4. Accept Failure & Move On

Sometimes, life doesn’t go our way. Even SMART goals might not be reached for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t mean you should give up. If you only tracked your mood for two days instead of three one week, don’t stop tracking your mood altogether. Try to meet your goal the next week.  

If your deadline came and went, acknowledge that you didn’t meet that goal, then try to come up with another one that you can achieve.  

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Don’t get discouraged by others’ successes. Remember to focus on yourself and your journey. Learn who you are and set goals that work for your life and personality — not someone else’s.   

Setting mental health recovery goals is a great way to take back control of your life and symptoms. For more ideas on goals to set, check out our other blog posts  with suggestions on how to make 2019 a happy and healthy year.

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*All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.