I’m a Mental Health Advocate—and This Is Why I Set Intentions Rather Than Resolutions

Plus, how you can do it for yourself.

If you’re feeling less than enthusiastic this year and don’t feel like making New Year’s resolutions, you’re not alone. After the craziness we all endured in 2020 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, making new goals just doesn’t sound appealing.

But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take the time to reflect on the past year or set any intentions for how you want to live your life in this new year. As a mental health advocate and the host of The Mental Health and Wealth Show, a podcast about mental health and finances, I have found a way to set goals for the future without allowing my anxiety to critique my past. Scroll below to see how you can work on your intentions rather than resolutions this year.

How to set intentions:

Journal about the past year.

It’s easy to just want to erase all of 2020 and start fresh, but it’s important to reflect on the previous year. Why? You want to see where you’re at so you can devise an action plan for where you want to go. 

Get out your journal and reflect on some important questions. How did you grow? What were things that worked out well? What things fell short? What moments brought you the most joy, and what moments brought you the most heartache? 

Taking an inventory of the past year is a good way to gauge where you’re at and acknowledge where you made progress on any life goals and where you may have fallen off the wagon. It’s also a good opportunity to practice gratitude for all the good things that did happen (if you’re healthy and have a roof over your head, that’s a win!). You can also see the bad parts in a new light, hopefully with a lesson learned. 

Create a list of what worked and what didn’t. 

After journaling, get another piece of paper. Draw a line down the middle, and on one side write “what worked” and on the other side, “what didn’t work.” Then you can write things down based on what you journaled.

Maybe under “what worked,” you have “made time for friends” or “worked on self-care.” Then maybe under “what didn’t work,” you have “not sticking to an exercise routine” or “drinking too much.” 

It’s important to write these down without any judgment. All of this is in the past now; it’s just a data point for you to use so you can go mindfully into the future and enjoy the new year in a new way. 

Choose one major goal to work toward.

When you’re done creating your list, you might have a lot of things that you made some progress on while others none at all. Take a look at that list of what didn’t work and choose one thing that you want to work on in the new year. 

You want to keep it simple and only have one major goal to work on. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to improve in other areas, but choosing just one thing can help make it more achievable. For example, maybe your main focus will be working on a novel or getting your finances in order. 

Write down a list of actions that will help you achieve your goal.

The reason so many New Year’s resolutions fail is because they’re too big. Also, goals aren’t achieved out of pure motivation and desire. Goals are met because of your habits. As author James Clear states in his book Atomic Habits: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Having a system in place that is routine and habitual can create success. Think of brushing your teeth every morning. You probably don’t really think about it; you just do it. What other actions can you do to help you achieve your goals?

For example, you can decide to go on a walk first thing in the morning before work. I started this habit a few months ago, and it’s changed my mental health and ensures that I’m not “too tired” to exercise when I’m done with my work. To help with that action, you can put your clothes out the night before. Place your shoes near the door.

Get started.

After you’ve solidified your major goal and written down your actions, you want to get started. You can do this at any time—New Year’s Eve or not. The key is just to start and do your best to remain consistent. Try to keep a log of how you feel after being consistent. Most of us loathe the idea of going to the gym but always feel better mentally afterward. Try to use that feeling in your mind as motivation. And when motivation lacks, try to boost your discipline and remember the big picture. 

If you fall off track, no need to beat yourself up. The beauty is that you get a new chance to try again every day. So think of every morning as a new opportunity. 

Taking these steps can help you create a new lifestyle that will naturally help you reach your goals, unlike larger-than-life resolutions that can be tough to keep.

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