Making SMART New Year's Resolutions

For many of us, New Year’s Resolutions impose impossible goals and undue stress for the weeks before we break them and go back to our old ways. Why do we keep trying, year after year, and will we ever be successful? 

We keep trying because we can see room to improve. Plus, the New Year offers a great start date. To help you stick to your New Year’s Resolution this year, try making your resolution SMART. But, what does that mean?

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-oriented:

  • Specific. Setting specific goals makes them easier to visualize. For example, instead of “I am going to exercise regularly,” set a goal “to exercise Monday, Wednesday, and Friday after work for 45 minutes.”
  • Measurable. How can you measure if you’re sticking to a resolution? For example, instead of “I am going to keep a journal,” set a goal “to write at least five sentences in my journal every day.”
  • Achievable. Succeeding at our goals makes us feel great, and motivates us to keep setting new goals. But, success is only possible if the goal you create is achievable. For example, instead of setting the goal of “I am going to be a millionaire,” set a goal to “save 10% of every paycheck.”
  • Realistic. Let’s be real. It’s been a tough year, and we’re expecting miracles next year. Miracles are few and far between. Instead of “I am going to keep the house spotless, prepare all meals from scratch, and write five letters a week,” set a goal to “follow a house-keeping schedule, prepare at least three homemade meals a week, and keep in touch with five friends and family members every month.”
  • Time-oriented. One of the problems with New Year’s resolutions is that you have so much time until next year. It’s easy to just put things off until later when you have 365 days to achieve a goal. Try moving your deadline forward. Instead of “By the end of the year…” set a first goal for January, then a second for February, and so on.

This year, let’s focus on making SMART resolutions for better mental health by taking popular resolutions and making them SMART:

Goal 1: Exercise regularly. Let’s apply the SMART principles:

S: Go for a 1.5 mile walk at 7:30 every morning and 5:30 every afternoon

M: Track my exercise using a Fitbit

A: There is a 1.5 mile loop near my house, and I have the time to walk it before and after work

R: I will make it part of my routine

T: I will do this every workday for the months of January and February, then revisit and consider a new exercise or routine

NEW GOAL: Go for a 1.5 mile walk on the loop near my house before and after work each day for the months of January and February, wearing a Fitbit.

Goal 2: Be more self-aware regarding my moods. How do we make this a SMART goal?

S: Record my moods in a journal I keep in my purse

M: Record my moods at the same five times every day: wake-up, start of workday, lunch break, end of workday, bedtime

A: I am usually alone at the these times, so it will be not distracting to write in my journal

R: I will make this part of my routine

T: I will put a reminder on my calendar every Monday to remind myself to keep it up

NEW GOAL: Record my moods at the same five times each day in a mood journal I keep in my purse.

Goal 3: Be kind to myself. How can we make this one more achievable? Make it SMART:

S: Say one nice thing about myself out loud everyday

M: Record the nice thing I say about myself in my mood journal

A: I will make it part of my morning routine

R: I have good qualities, so it is realistic to highlight one everyday

T: I will do this every day when I return from my morning walk

NEW GOAL: I will celebrate one good thing about myself every morning and record it in my mood journal at the start of my workday. 

There are endless possibilities for resolutions—what are you doing to improve your mental health in 2018?