How to Achieve Better Mental Health in the New Year

Dr. Rosemary Rukavina

Dr. Rosemary Rukavina

Registered Psychologist #2775

And actually hit your goal

Many of you know you should take better care of yourself. You tell yourself that this year, you will take more time to slow down, relax, and do things that are enjoyable and life-giving. You set your goals for the new year, but, most of you never achieve them.

Part of the reason is because you struggle to fit in self-care into your schedule. Life gets busy, competing demands get in the way, and everyone else’s needs become more important than yours. Self-care seems like a frivolous luxury.

Have you ever considered where your thinking comes from? This learning usually originates from your childhood. Think about these questions:

  • How was self-care modelled to you by your parents?
  • Was doing things for yourself considered selfish?
  • Was it made known to you that the needs of others came first?
  • What would happen if you were to relax and play?


Once you have worked out why it’s hard to do nice things for yourself, it’s time to reset your thinking and set healthier goals for self-care. And what better time for starting something new, than the start of a new year?

At the beginning of a new year, many people think of resolutions or goals to work towards in the year ahead…lose weight, save money, relax more, and be happier. Well-intentioned people set these goals and often find by the end of the year (or even by the end of January!), that little or no progress has been made.

Why is this? The simple answer is that these goals are too vague.

So, what’s the best way to get real results?  Make your goal specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. In other words, SMART.  SMART goal setting is easy if you know how to do it. Here’s the template.

Take the example of greater self-care. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What does more self-care look like for me? (specific)
  • How am I going to know when I am actually doing more self-care? (measurable)
  • Can this goal really be reached? (achievable)
  • Can I really fit this type of self-care into my schedule? (realistic)
  • How long will it take to incorporate this into my schedule? (timely)


Let’s say I want to walk more. I decide that a 15-minute walk, twice a week for a month seems like a specific and reasonable place to start. I will walk during my lunch break on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Since walking is something new, I may not remember to do it. So, I will place post-it notes around my home and reminders in my calendar on Tuesdays and Thursdays at noon.

I will track my progress and at the end of the month, see how I did. Hopefully, I will achieve my goal. But if I didn’t, I could tweak the SMART goals to make them more attainable. As this new behaviour becomes more habitual over time, I will rely less on external reminders.

And maybe I will like these walks so much that I may set another goal around walking more, such as adding on Mondays and Wednesdays at noon, or increasing my walks to 20 minutes.  

When you see your progress, it motivates you to continue. If you need more support and accountability with your SMART goals, contact us at Brentwood Counselling Centre, and we’d be happy to support you in achieving your goals in the new year.

Dart in the center of the target. Actually hit your goal.

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