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As the year wraps up, it is important to remember to reflect on the past twelve months with a lens of gratitude and celebration. Whether it was a difficult year of trials, an emotional year of highs and lows, or the best year of your life so far, contemplating on your 2022 will help you see your successes, learn from your failures, and be ready to set new goals for the next year or season of your life. Acknowledging milestones is significant in improving your mental health!

Why reflection is key

Reflection is vital in finding progress in your mental health (and really improving anything in your life). Without serious, honest, intentional, and aware consideration of where you’ve been at different points in the previous year, seeing and understanding yourself is impossible. How can you improve if you’re unaware of how you’ve changed already?

The whole objective of self-reflection is to really notice the milestones you’ve surpassed and/or gotten closer to. Goal-setting can be difficult. Sometimes it is discouraging to look back and realize the progress you’ve made hasn’t quite met your expectations. And that is okay. Extend grace to yourself. And don’t forget to be SMART with your goals! 

SMART goal-setting

The point of setting goals is to give yourself a point to strive towards that will ultimately serve as the foundation or building block towards the next goal. If you need, let the point at which you currently are be a new starting position as you refocus on achieving your original goal. The milestones you’ve imagined along the way do not have to be absolute; create new ones as you go to allow room for the ebbs and flows of life to happen. If that kind of flexible goal-journeying seems overwhelming to you, perhaps adding growth in adaptability as a goal would be a good idea. 🙂

The flip side of this notion is that it is so important to know yourself and your own limitations. (Another perk of reflecting on milestones!) Goals ought to be challenging but still achievable. And it is of course fun to pull in a buddy and employ camaraderie and accountability, but do not let that deter you from honoring your limitations. Set the goal for you – not based on someone else. 

It is worth keeping in mind the common phrase of sticking to SMART goals, a clever acronym meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-related. Clarify (as detailed as possible) exactly what it is you’ll be aiming for. Consider the means by which you will evaluate it and how you will track your progress along the way. Again, keep in mind your own limitations as you create goals that are doable in your time frame. Practicality is key, too, so remember to assess your own context and what is feasible to work into your schedule/lifestyle. And lastly, don’t forget to set an end point at which point you hope to achieve your goal. Which brings us back to milestones and how important they are!

Milestones and mental health

The end of the year is the perfect time to set aside time for introspection because, even if you didn’t set a time-frame for your 2022 goals (or a specific goal at all), you can still look back at a very identifiable period of time to see how you’ve changed over the past 12 months. Self-reflection sparks insight, which changes the way you see yourself and your impact on the people and world around you. From this place of deeper awareness, the truer, stronger, SMART-er goals are much easier to visualize.

Looking back on milestones with honesty means choosing to see the good and the bad. Remember, you are exceptional – but not the exception. Acknowledging your mistakes or failures is healthy, as long as you remember to analyze them with a positive lens of learning instead of a negative shade of rumination or brooding. It takes effort to ride the line of being real with yourself and your shortcomings while also refusing to be too hard on yourself. 

This is especially true as you continue to reintegrate mental health into all aspects of your life. For example, anxiety may make things hard to accomplish at times. But remember that, if you struggle with anxious feelings, you are not to blame for your anxiety; you are only responsible for learning how to manage it. Incorporating behavior modification to help manage mental health disorders is a fantastic goal to set! 

The whole act of setting goals and acknowledging milestones makes overwhelming feelings associated with depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, and many other mental health disorders much easier to not only identify, but also better prepare for. This minimizes the effects of the prevalent symptoms. Talk with your mental health care team about what goals will work best for you!

Looking for a therapist? If you’re in the North Texas area, check out www.FeelBetterFortWorth.com for some outstanding local mental health resources! If you reside elsewhere, www.gide.me is the perfect tool to help any therapist find the right therapist for you (we’re working on a patient-facing option). We hope you continue to use this holiday season as a way to celebrate your accomplishments this year. You’ve made it! Joyfully consider the milestones you’ve surpassed, and start thinking about what you hope to accomplish in the new year. We believe in you!

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