How to Set SMART Goals for Improved Mental Health

by Mike Veny Patient Advocate

If you struggle with mental health issues, you've no doubt noticed there are many options for treatment available. Help comes in the form of counseling, medication, and lifestyle changes such as improved diet and exercise. But even with the best treatment in the world, I have found that mental health issues can be confusing and frustrating. Treatment for mental health is not like being treated for a common cold. It is not a one-and-done type of deal. Instead, we should continue to search and try until we find the right combination that works for us.

How goal setting can improve mental health

One of the ways that I've improved my mental health is through goal-setting, through which I can track progress. It's a great tool to experience some small wins. These small victories helped me to create better lifestyle habits and improve my self-esteem. Ultimately, they have given me more motivation to continue being proactive in my recovery.

The way that I've learned to set goals is by using Michael Hyatt's SMARTER goals acronym. Setting SMART goals has become quite popular, but Hyatt takes it a step further with his plan.

Setting smarter goals means that each goal must be:

  • Specific: Don't be vague. You need to know what outcome you are working toward.

  • Measurable: The only way to know if you are making progress is to include a number in your goal to make it measurable.

  • Actionable: When you start your goal with an action verb there is no question about what you should be doing.

  • Risky: Something that makes us rise to the challenge.

  • Time-bound: You need a deadline to work toward meeting. A deadline puts a healthy pressure on you to get started.

  • Exciting: Goals need to lift you and inspire you. They should motivate you to want to work on them.

  • Relevant: The goals you are working toward should be appropriate to the challenges that you're experiencing in your life and where you want to go next.

My goal setting experience

1. Exercise goal

One of the goals that I've recently set for myself is probably one you can identify with, as it's one most people set at some point in their life. Unlike a bodyweight goal, mine is to exercise a certain number of times this year. I'm not going to share that number with you, but the purpose of this goal is that it will force me to measure how much I exercise. It will give me a standard to hold myself to. I know for a fact that exercise regularly improves my depression and reduces my anxiety.

2. Drumming goal

Another goal that I've set is to complete five drumming instructional books this year. Drumming has been a big part of my life. When I force myself to practice out of these books, it gives me a structure and motivates me to take out my drumsticks. In turn, this improves my drumming skills. Knowing that I have to complete five by the end of the year gives ample time to practice what I need to, make the mistakes that I need to, and feel better. Ultimately I hope to finish the year a much better drummer with better skills, but also better emotionally because of my time spent on this creative outlet.

3. Spiritual goal

Another goal that I've set for myself is to finish A Course in Miracles through the workbook provided at the end of the book. A Course in Miracles has become a part of my spiritual walk. The workbook has daily exercises that give me insight into growing myself spiritually. I find that it often helps with a lot of my mental health issues, as well. This is the first time that I've ever set a goal around spirituality, so I'm extra excited about working on this.

4. Meditation goal

The toughest goal that I have set is to get into the habit of meditating two times a day for 30 minutes each. The style of meditation that I do is called Primordial Sound Meditation, and it does a beautiful job of reducing my anxiety. I've gotten into the habit of doing it once daily, even though sometimes I miss a day. Getting into the habit of doing it twice a day for 30 minutes will force me to put myself in a calm state of mind each day. I strongly expect this will have a dramatic effect on my overall anxiety.

I wanted to share these to encourage you to try goal-setting as a way of improving your mental health this year. Choose goals that are personal to you and will have a positive impact on your quality of life. They don't have to be big and complicated. The most important thing is that you set goals that help you develop habits that can benefit your mental health. And it always feels good to see when you are making progress towards a goal. Every small success is a win.

Mike Veny
Meet Our Writer
Mike Veny

Mental health speaker and best-selling author Mike Veny delivers engaging presentations with raw energy and a fresh perspective on diversity and inclusion. He shares how he went from struggling with mental health challenges to being a thought leader that travels the globe telling his story to help transform stigma. He is a highly sought-after keynote speaker, corporate drumming event facilitator, author, and luggage enthusiast. Seriously, you’d completely get it if you did all the traveling he did! Mike is the author of the book Transforming Stigma: How to Become a Mental Wellness Superhero. As a 2017 PM360 ELITE Award Winner, he is recognized as one of the 100 most influential people in the healthcare industry for his work as a patient advocate.