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How setting small goals can have a big impact on your mindset

There are many ways you can try to improve your mental health. Getting more sleep, eating better, and getting exercise are some of most common pieces of advice out there. But there is another way you can improve your mental health gradually, every day: by setting small simple goals, and achieving them.

Of course, if we’re feeling depressed, or struggling with other issues, it can be hard to summon the energy to set goals and go after them. But if you set a goal and achieve it, no matter how small it is, it can help you start to feel more capable, more able to affect change for yourself. That can be incredibly motivating and empowering.

Why achieving goals is good for our mental health

When we achieve things we set out to do, we feel empowered. It shows us that we have agency, that we can alter things around us, and improve our situation.

We don’t have to have climbed a mountain to feel proud of doing something, even achieving small goals like doing the dishes, tidying up, or making a nice dinner can help improve how we feel, giving us a sense of accomplishment. Over time, this can build up our confidence, leading us to set larger goals, and achieve bigger things.

How to set and achieve goals

Start simple

The best way to start setting goals is to begin with small but immediately obvious tasks. If you take the rubbish out, you’ve immediately improved your surroundings in a way that you can’t deny.

Wanting to write a novel or run a marathon are noble goals, but they take time, and you can’t always see the progress you’ve made in concrete terms. This can end up feeling discouraging, and make us feel worse than we did before.

Simple things like replying to an important email, updating your CV, or cleaning out your wardrobe can make a surprisingly big difference to how you feel, especially if it’s something you’ve been putting off. Decide to make one small change, or do one small task and see how you feel afterwards.

Break big goals down into smaller ones

When we want to make changes, we often want to start right away, with some big and drastic goals, to mark a clear point of progression. Starting small might seem like a waste of time, but breaking goals down into smaller targets can help us get in the swing of things far easier than trying to do it all at once, especially if it’s something new or difficult which we might struggle with at first.

To take our earlier examples, you may want to write a novel, or run a marathon. Both of those can take months of work, and can seem like huge, impossible challenges at the start. If you take on too much right at the beginning, you can end up struggling, and maybe giving up before you really get going.

It’s often more helpful to start smaller and build up, like running 1K or writing 500 words instead of trying to do as much as you can, as fast as you can.

Recognise your achievements and be proud of yourself

Lastly, it’s important that when you do succeed and achieve things, that you take the time to recognise that, and be proud of yourself.

If you do this every day, for all the little things you did, you’ll start to build up confidence and begin setting bigger goals for yourself.

There are many ways to improve your mental health, and setting goals is just one. But it might help to change how you feel, and could build up your confidence to help you keep setting and achieving goals.

Read more tips for improving your mental health, or learn about anxiety and how to manage it.

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Posted on: 3rd April 2023

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