It is soon the start of a new year. 2024 is just around the corner! How do you want to engage in mental health and wellness as the calendar turns over? Are you thinking about starting mental health counselling?
With the arrival of each new year, we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on how the previous year has been and what might lie ahead for us in the future. Sticking to New Year’s resolutions can often be quite difficult – either because of the goals we set or the way in which we set them. Depending on your goals, a mental health professional might be a helpful person to speak with in order to gain helpful tools and strategies.
When thinking about upcoming resolutions, it is important to set realistic goals within any area of your life. This includes physical health resolutions, including exercise and weight management. However, what about resolutions connected to your mental health? How can we go about setting meaningful and realistic resolutions regarding mental health issues?
In this blog, we will focus on ways that you can set healthy goals in terms of mental health and wellness and how to cultivate resilience and self-compassion in the coming year.
Reflecting on the Past Year: Lessons and Growth
When reflecting on your past year, what do you think about? Can you think of things you have done that you feel proud of? Can you also think of things that you would like to do differently moving forward? It is an important exercise to take some time and reflect on your goals heading into the year. Life is very good at throwing us curve balls! So this is certainly not about feeling guilt or shame for anything you wanted to do, but did not. Instead, this is an opportunity to plan differently for the year ahead. We have some strategies that can help you to do that!
Setting Realistic and Healthy Goals
Setting goals can be very challenging. The experience of any mental health issues can make goal setting even more challenging. There are a few strategies that you want to think about when setting any type of a goal. We will also focus on setting goals for mental health and wellness. Setting SMART goals is often one of the best ways we can go about goal setting. Read on to learn more!
- Specific Goals: When our goals are vague in nature, we want to work on making them more specific. This allows us to actually carry out our goals and understand what we want to accomplish. If your goal is to “sleep better” you might not know how you want to attain this. If your goal becomes “go to bed earlier and listen to my body when I am tired” you have set a much more specific goal for yourself!
- Measurable Goals: when we set vague goals we will also have difficulty when trying to carry them out. Therefore, we want our goals to be measurable. We all know how important sleep is for our mental health. We might then set our goal to be “I will go to bed earlier and listen to my body when I am tired at least 3 times per week”. Now your goal is specific and measurable!
- Achievable Goals: You want to make sure that the goal is something you are actually able to do. If you have a newborn baby in your home and you are setting a goal to go to bed early 3 times per week, it might not actually be achievable. However, your lifestyle might be set up appropriately to allow you to go to bed a few times early. If you live with others, you might want to share your goal with them so you will also have their support in terms of carrying this out.
- Realistic Goals: one of the most important parts in setting any type of a goal is to set relevant and realistic goals. It can be very difficult to adhere to goals that we set for ourselves. And if we don’t actually accomplish our goals we might feel “let down” and not motivated to keep trying. Therefore, one of the best things you can do is set a realistic goal that you believe you can meet. From there, you can build up your goals slowly, ensuring success every step of the way.
- Time-Bound Goals: This last part of goal-setting is about having a deadline and making that realistic for yourself. You might expect to be having more energy if you go to bed earlier a few times per week. When do you want to check in with yourself and see if meeting your goal is actually impacting your mental health and wellness? Would one week feel helpful or maybe one month? This is another important part of the goal-setting process.
Building Resilience: Strategies for Sustained Mental Wellness
SMART Goals are very helpful when it comes to deciding on small, realistic, achievable goals for ourselves. It is also important to consider how you could sustain these types of goals for enhanced mental health and wellness. Some mental health professionals have spoken to this very issue.
Dr. Christine Padesky initially developed a personal model of resilience to help people recognize their strengths and apply them to multiple areas of their life in order to promote happiness and enhanced quality of life.
Dr. Diana Brecher adapted Dr. Padesky’s work and applied it to her 5-factor model for building resilience. It can be very useful to think about these factors as we plan for the year ahead and how we want to improve our mental health and wellness. Dr. Diana Brecher, through Thrive TMU, offers excellent resources if you want to learn more about this model.
This model speaks to the following five factors that you can incorporate into your life in order to build resiliency and increased mental health and wellness.
- Mindfulness: Mindfulness refers to the idea of paying attention, in the present moment, without judgement or evaluation. Although we might not always “like” or “enjoy” what is happening in the present moment, it can be very grounding to focus on what is happening in the here and now. In this way our brains are not ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. They are right here, right now. There are many different mindfulness practices that you can start to build into your daily routine.
- Gratitude: Gratitude for mental health and wellness is about paying attention to what is happening around you and being able to reflect on it and absorb it. What better time to do this than before a new year gets started? In moments of gratitude, you can ask yourself to notice good things that have happened to you, acts of kindness from people in your life and opportunities that have been presented to you. We want to try and practice gratitude reflection on a regular basis (you can set a SMART goal around this!). In doing so, you become connected to others and can pay more attention to opportunities that are available to you.
- Self-Compassion: What would you say if a friend came to you and told you they made a mistake at school or work during a presentation they had worked so hard on? Would you tell them they should have done better or tried harder? No, you would not. You would tell them that they worked hard and tried their best. You would be compassionate and understanding towards why they are feeling upset. We are often very good at showing compassion to other people. However, we also want to be able to turn that compassionate voice inwards, towards ourselves. Dr. Kristen Neff has pioneered the study of self-compassion and its benefits on our mental health. Self-compassion is a key factor in building resiliency. Practicing small amounts of self-compassion on a regular basis can help to strengthen your kind, inner voice. Mental health counselling can help you learn to incorporate self-compassion on a regular basis.
- Optimism: It has been found that individuals who are optimistic are able to create a more positive narrative as to why bad things happen. This allows them to bounce back more readily from difficult situations. Dr. Martin Seligman found that individuals who are optimistic will explain good experiences as something that they had a major role in creating. He also speaks to the idea of “learned optimism” as a way to change your narrative of why bad things happen. By learning to challenge negative thinking styles, we can begin to shift our perspective. This can contribute to enhanced mental health and wellness.
- Grit: This idea of grit has been defined by a psychologist, Dr. Angela Duckworth. The idea is that we can persevere despite experiencing setbacks. We can work on developing an outlook in which we continue to carry out the goals we set for ourselves, even when challenges and barriers can get in our way.
It is important to reflect on how you might already be embracing some of these factors in certain areas of your life. If that is the case, then you might want to set SMART goals to plan out how you can apply these skills to areas that you are struggling with. Dr. Brecher speaks about this idea in her model. Personal resilience is often about recognizing our strengths and how these skills are applicable to multiple areas within our lives.
Can Speaking with a Mental Health Professional be Important for a Mentally Healthy New Year?
Of course it can! The skills and strategies described within this blog will hopefully help you to start to reflect on changes you want the new year to bring. It can sometimes be difficult to make these changes though. Mental health counselling can provide you with professional support to learn these tools and use them on a regular basis.
Forward Thinking Psychological Services is here to help! Our mental health professionals work with individuals experiencing a variety of mental health challenges and issues. These issues include OCD, anxiety, depression, trauma and life transitions. We can work with you to explore ideas of resilience and bouncing back from difficult times within our lives. As this new year approaches, invest in yourself and decide what you want to do in order to move forward with the life you want to live! Contact us at FTPS to learn more about how our team can help you!
Brecher, D. (2017) Cultivate Your Happiness: A ThriveRU Weekly Workbook, Ryerson University.
Seligman, 2006, p. 312
DISCLAIMER: This content is meant for informational and educational purposes only. Only a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist can diagnose a mental health disorder. The content of this website is not meant to be a substitute for therapy. Visiting this website should not be considered to be equivalent to a relationship with FTPS. Mental health concerns should only be discussed in the context of providing professional services after the consent process has been completed with a qualified FTPS associate outside of our website.