Our mental health is at greater risk now than it ever has been!
Spending so much time cooped up indoors with reduced social contact and high levels of worldwide fear is definitely wreaking havoc on our sense of wellbeing.
The World Health Organization  estimates that roughly 5% of adults around the world suffer from depression, but a poll run by the Kaiser Family Foundation  found that during the pandemic, 4 in 10 U.S. adults reported symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders.
That’s an increase of 800%!
Anxiety and depression have become more prevalent in the last decade or so, but recent events have truly skyrocketed rates of mental health problems. It’s now more important than ever to take steps to protect our mental and emotional health, to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety as much as possible.
Well, one study found a fascinating—and surprisingly simple—“secret weapon” in the fight for better mental health. That weapon: goal-setting.
Back in 2019, the American Psychological Association  published a study that connected goal-setting with greater emotional and mental resilience. In the study, data from nearly 3,300 adults (average age of 45) dating as far back as 1995 was analyzed, including questionnaires where participants had to rate their goal-setting abilities.
The questionnaire examined three major factors:
Goal persistence, or keeping up with set goals even when it is difficult to meet the goal.
Self-mastery, or being determined to “do anything you set your mind to”.
Positive reappraisal, or finding a positive outlook even in grim situations.
The participants were also examined for rates of panic disorders, depression, and anxiety.
Fascinatingly enough, over 18 years of study, the people with the highest self-rated levels of optimism and goal persistence were less likely to develop mental health disorders. Not only that, but people who started off the study with fewer mental health disorders were also more prone to persevering and following through on their set goals later in life. They were also better able to focus on the positive side and find optimism through dark times.
The study’s lead author had a fascinating take on the research, saying, “Our findings suggest that people can improve their mental health by raising or maintaining high levels of tenacity, resilience and optimism. Aspiring toward personal and career goals can make people feel like their lives have meaning.”
Well, there you have it! Setting goals—and following through to achieve them—can be one of the best ways to protect your mental health. By having goals to push toward, you can reduce your risk of depression, anxiety, and panic disorders. You’ll enjoy a richer, fuller, healthier life as a result.
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Step 1: Know the end result you want. You’ve got to know the outcome before you can decide the steps you’ll take to get there. Picture in your head how you want to look, feel, or what you want to achieve. Make sure it’s an end result important enough to be worth all the time and effort you’re going to invest!
Step 2: Think SMART. SMART stands:
Specific. The more specific the better!
Measurable. You have to be able to quantify your progress in order to make sure you’re actually getting the results you want.
Attainable. If it’s not realistic, you’ll run out of steam and give up before you see the end result.
Relevant. It has to matter to your life in some way, otherwise you won’t have the motivation to push through to the goal.
Time-Bound. Giving yourself a timeframe to work with will help keep it at the forefront of your mind and give it a measure of urgency that keeps you pushing toward the objective.
Planning SMART goals is critical for mission-success.
Step 3: Write the goals down. Having written proof of your goals is a great way to keep you honest and motivated. Not only is it a visual reminder you’ll see every day, but others will see it too, creating a sense of accountability in your mind.
Step 4: Plan your actions. Knowing what to do and when to do it will take the uncertainty out of the process. You’re going to struggle enough to reach your goal—better you don’t also have to struggle to know how to get there!
Step 5: Get started. Yes, this is the critical step, one so many people fail to take. You can spend all the time planning and preparing you want, but you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t actually get to work!
Step 6: Evaluate and adapt. Once you’ve begun, check in regularly to see how you’re doing. Are you making the progress you wanted? Can you do better, or do you need to adjust some part of your goals—such as timeframe or end-result? Evaluation and adaptation are crucial for long-term success.
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