How to Set Goals When Living with Depression
Setting and achieving goals can a powerful step to making positive changes in your life and can help improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. We all have hopes, dreams, and a vision of our happiest life. Setting goals is one of the most important steps toward tackling adversity – such as depression and anxiety – in our lives.
Setting goals and accomplishing goals can be a difficult task when not living with depression. For people living with depression, setting goals can feel absolutely overwhelming. To help maximize your success, it’s important to start small.
Goals should not be big, grandiose statements that will change everything about your life.
Instead, think about be small, realistic, and attainable goals that will help you make tiny improvements. Once you begin to develop confidence and stack up some “wins,” the value of goal-setting will begin to resonate with you.
Set Small Goals
When most people set themselves goals or targets, they often set themselves generalized goals like ‘be happier’ or ‘get healthier’. These goals are very non-specific, so it can be difficult to measure your progress and check if you are actually achieving anything.
One of the most important things to do goal-setting when depressed is to use the SMART approach to goal-setting.
- Specific – Who, what, when, where, why, or which
- Measurable – How much / how many?
- Actionable – Is this achievable? Goals should be challenging but achievable
- Realistic – Is this goal realistic?
- Timely – Does your goal set a deadline?
S.M.A.R.T. Goal Examples
For example, if you want to lose weight, your goal might look something like this:
I will lose 3 pounds (Specific and Measurable) by daily walks of at least 30 minutes (Actionable) by October 1st (Realistic and Timely).
Setting yourself a number of small, manageable and more personal goals on a daily basis can help you make serious improvements in the long run.
If you suffer from anxiety or depression and find daily tasks overwhelming, making yourself a short list can be really helpful.
Setting yourself simple goals such as making your bed each morning or going for a short walk each day can really help your sense of self-esteem. Ticking your tasks off the list as you do them provides a sense of achievement.
Remember, life is a marathon, not a sprint, and these small goals will help you make steady progress. You can also stop any of the changes you are making if they feel too drastic or extreme. Over time, these small changes will also begin to add up and you will start to see a considerable improvement in the quality of your life and in the way that you feel about yourself.
What once seemed impossible will quickly begin to feel like a normal part of your day to day life.
Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself
One of the most important things you should do when it comes to setting goals for yourself is to accept and prepare for the fact that you may not achieve them.
Not achieving a goal can happen for a number of different reasons but it is important that you are prepared for different eventualities. It is important to not be too hard on yourself if you slip up as this can be hugely detrimental to your own well-being. Focus on picking yourself up and continuing towards your target, even if reaching it takes a little bit longer than you first anticipated.
It helps to share your goals with your support network (friends, family, and physicians) to help you feel more committed to achieving them.
By their nature, a lot of targets and goals are focused on negativity. They often involve us finding something we don’t like about ourselves and looking for ways to change it. In some ways, there is no problem with that because self-improvement is not a bad thing, but it can also be damaging if we fail to achieve those targets.
For example, if you want to run a marathon, then don’t worry about what time you can finish it in or whether or not you can beat other people. Run it just for yourself. Make finishing your goal, no matter how long it takes you. This kind of mentality is much more important than one that focuses on a negative aspect or something that is needlessly competitive. Goal setting and achievement can be a huge boost for your mental health and can also be incredibly inspiring. The sense of achievement after completing one goal will help you set another one.
Believe In Yourself
One of the most important elements of setting your goals, especially when you are goal setting when depressed, is to believe in yourself and what you are capable of.
It is easy to set yourself a goal, look at it and say to yourself, ‘I probably won’t be able to do that.’ Those voices inside your head need to be ignored. If you believe you can’t do something, then chances are that you won’t do it.
Learn to tell yourself that you can do something and that you are capable of achieving what you want to achieve. Once again, this is where having a strong support network can be incredibly important. It is easy to beat yourself up and listen to those voices but all that you will end up doing then is wasting time and feeling worse about yourself in the long run. Believing in yourself, as cliché as it may sound, is essential if you want to be able to set and achieve goals.