10 Practical Mental Health Goals For 2024 For Your Self-Growth

What are your mental health goals for 2024, now that we are in April? Who says you can't create goals after the new year? WELL, spoiler alert, there is no rulebook that says you have to have it alllll figured out by Jan 1st. So today, I am going to help you set practical mental health goals for the year to help you prioritize your self-growth. Let's get started.

Mental Health Goals For 2024

If you have navigated the twists and turns of a dysfunctional family, you know how important (and challenging) it is to take care of yourself. With all the uncertainty that comes with our family dynamics, think of prioritizing yourself like a plant growing through the cracks in the pavement, giving you a chance to thrive.

Remember, self-growth is not always about making giant strides. Sometimes, it's the everyday habits and choices that shape us. Having mental health goals will help with just that. Think of them as your personal cheerleaders, providing a reminder to take care of yourself and keep moving forward.

Whether you are new to setting mental health goals for 2024 or just need a few new ideas, we have something for everyone. So, grab your notebook, find a cozy spot, and keep reading to set goals for mental health. 

What Are Mental Health Goals & Why Should You Care? 

Mental health goals are like roadmaps for our emotional well-being. Just like you exercise and eat clean to help your physical body (and mental health), mental health goals help you prioritize your emotional health.

Mental health goals help you feel better and cope with life's challenges, allowing you to better handle stress, build and manage healthier relationships, and confidently pursue other areas of your life. Your mental health goals can be anything from developing healthy habits and routines to setting boundaries or managing your stress levels.

Think of these goals as an investment in YOU and your happiness. Your mental health is just as important as other areas of your life, and it requires taking practice steps to nurture it. Remember, everyone has mental health, and not everyone has a mental illness. The goal is to foster your mental health.

What Are SMART Goals For Mental Health?

I am sure you have heard about SMART goals at work. But did you know you can also set SMART goals for your mental health? It's a practical way to help you turn your goals into achievable actions. 

SMART is an acronym that stands for Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Let's break this down:

1) Specific: Be clear about what you want to achieve. Instead of saying, "I want to improve my relationship with my mom." a specific goal might be, "I want to call my mom at least once a week." 

2) Measurable: You should be able to track and measure the progress of your goal. For example, if your goal is to improve your relationship with your mom by calling her once a week, you should be able to track how many times you called her in 1 month. 

3) Achievable: Be realistic about your goals. Setting ambitious goals can lead to disappointment. You want to start small and increase the challenge as you gain momentum. For example, if you aren't in the habit of talking to your mom every day, setting a goal of calling her every day might be too big. Instead, focus on calling once a week and increasing the frequency of calls over time. 

4) Relevant: You are more likely to stick with a goal if it is value-based and aligns with your long-term priorities. When you choose to focus on mental health goals for 2024, select goals that are meaningful to you and your self-growth. 

5) Time-Bound: Your goal should have a deadline. This helps create a sense of urgency and motivates you. Without timeframes for achieving your goals, you most likely won't stick with them or have something to look forward to, so have an end date in mind.

10 Mental Health Goals For 2024

What are some good mental health goals to set for your self-growth in 2024? Check out this list of mental health goals to help you get started. 

1) Start a Habit of Journaling

Journaling can feel like a small step, but it can have a profound impact on your life, especially for those of you navigating the complexities of a dysfunctional family dynamic. I like to think of journaling as a way to untangle my thoughts by having a conversation with myself. It allows me to shed light on my behaviors by understating my triggers and feelings. When you are self-aware about your choices, you can break the cycle of harmful inherited family patterns.

Many people raised in a dysfunctional family struggle with expressing their emotions, leading to a habit of burying their feelings deep inside and putting on a brave face of 'everything is okay.' Journaling is a great way to start making contact with some of those buried feelings by letting it all out without fear of judgment or repercussions.

When things feel overwhelming or chaotic, writing down your thoughts can help you slow down and provide a sense of stability. So whether you need to vent about a frustrating encounter with a family member or reflect on your day amidst the chaos, journaling allows you to acknowledge and process your emotions in a healthy way.

Getting started with building the habit of journaling does NOT have to be daunting. Whether you are new to journaling or just looking to develop a more consistent habit, the goal is to find what works best for YOU. Remember, we are focusing on SMART goals, so you want the goal to be realistic and attainable.

You can start by setting aside a few minutes each day to write in your journal, whether it's in the morning or right before bed. Try to journal in a space that is free from distractions, and spruce up your space, if necessary, with candles, music, or snacks. I like to have coffee and light music in the background when I am writing. Remember, there is no right or wrong way of doing this—just let your thoughts flow freely onto the page.

If you prefer journal prompts, start by writing down three things you are grateful for or reflecting on your day's highs and lows. When you start to experiment with different techniques, you will find what resonates with you—just stick with it.

Journaling takes time and practice. Not every entry is going to be a breakthrough, so be gentle with yourself and celebrate the progress along the way. Setbacks are normal.

2) Reflect on Your Social Media Habits

I will be the first to admit that I have fallen into the trap of mindless scrolling on social media more times than I can count. It is SO easy to get sucked into endless updates and perfect images, but as I continue to learn firsthand, what we see on social media is often not reality. If you ignore your relationship with social media, it can take a significant toll on your mental health. One of my mental health goals for 2024 is improving my relationship with my phone. 

In today's digital age, we can stay connected and informed almost all the time. It's no surprise then that we get caught up in the game of comparison, mindless scrolling through endless reels, and feel overwhelmed with information overload. Think about your own relationship with social media and how it makes you feel. Do you find yourself scrolling on your phone for hours only to end up feeling drained and disconnected? Are you seeking validation through likes and comments? Do you use social media as a way to engage in avoidance coping? Reflecting on these questions can help you understand the role of social media in your life and identify any unhealthy patterns to which it might be time to put a stop.

To get started, take some time for yourself to reflect on your relationship with social media. Do you notice any patterns? Are there specific accounts that tend to trigger unhelpful emotions? Once you start to reflect on some of these questions, consider setting a SMART goal for yourself. Whether you need to limit your screen time, unfollow accounts that make you feel inadequate, or take a 'social media-free' day, setting boundaries is important to protect your mental health.

Try practicing engaging in different hobbies that nourish you and help you gain control over your online experience. Social media is here to stay, and like anything in life, balance is key. Similar to journaling, when you experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you, you can take proactive steps to develop healthier relationships with social media.

3) Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule 

Ah, sleep is so hard to be consistent with, yet it is the most essential ingredient for our well-being. Having a consistent sleep schedule can be a game-changer. I used to be a night owl and could work until 2 or 3 in the morning. More recently this year, I have started waking up before 6:00 am, and on the days I am able to do that, I do not feel the brain fog, lack of focus, or lethargy. This definitely took A LOT of trial and error, but it was so worth it.

Setting a consistent sleep schedule is not just about sleeping and waking at the same time; it's about creating routines that signal our bodies that it is time to rest and prepare for bed. Whether it's putting your phone away, sipping ginger tea (something my husband and I do almost every night), or reading a good book, finding what helps you relax can make all the difference.

The natural rhythm of your sleep cycle is typically around 90 minutes. When you align your bedtime and wake-up time within these cycles, you can feel more refreshed and energized. You want to sleep through multiple cycles of 90 minutes, such as 7.5 hours or 9 hours, to allow your body to complete full sleep cycles. Most of us snooze or interrupt our sleep cycles which can leave us feeling groggy or tired since your body does not have the chance to complete the necessary stages of restorative sleep. 

You may have to play around with different sleep durations to figure out what leaves you feeling the most rested and adjust your bedtime to accommodate this pattern. For example, 9 hours of sleep is way too much for me. I feel highly rested with 7.5 hours of sleep, so I make sure if I do sleep later than intended, I set my alarm to a wake-up time that won't be in the middle of a sleep cycle.

Improving my sleep patterns has been another top mental health goals for 2024 and so far I am so happy I did not push this goal off. 

4) Learn to Interrupt the Rumination Cycle 

Breaking the cycle of rumination can feel like an uphill battle. Overthinking, worrying, or ruminating may have become a coping mechanism for you. Learning to interrupt this cycle is important for your mental health.

Ruminating is the process of repetitively dwelling on negative thoughts and experiences, which can quickly spiral out of control, leading to increased self-doubt and anxiety. Reflect on a situation where you disagreed with a family member, and you found yourself replaying the conversation in your mind- analyzing every word and action. You might think about all the things you could have said or done differently or getting fused with how you are feeling. When you ruminate on situations like this, it can increase negative emotions, leaving you feeling stuck in a cycle of self-blame.

Instead, learning to redirect your focus towards a more constructive perspective can help reduce the intensity of the emotion and help you extend self-compassion towards yourself. There are many different ways to break the cycle of rumination. The first step is to bring awareness of rumination, which involves paying attention to the signs that you are getting caught up in a thought pattern. To increase awareness, you can notice when your mind starts to fixate on specific things or pay attention to your physical cues, such as tension in your body or changes in your breathing. When you start noticing these signals, you can recognize you are ruminating, and you need to interrupt the cycle.

One strategy to interrupt the cycle is to practice different forms of mindfulness, allowing you to notice the thoughts without getting caught up in them. Notice the thought, place it on the cloud, and watch it pass by without judgment. You can also bring your awareness to the present moment by either focusing on your breathing or practicing a grounding exercise to help break the cycle of rumination. You can also schedule worry time, which is when you schedule a time (15 minutes to 30 minutes) to ruminate about the problem at hand. Once worry time is over, you engage in activities like mindfulness or distraction to avoid getting caught up in the cycle again.

The goal is to temporarily distract yourself to create some distance between your thoughts. Distraction does not mean suppressing or ignoring your thoughts; acknowledging just enough before redirecting your attention towards something more relaxing can help cultivate a healthier relationship with your thoughts and emotions.

When you are ruminating, you want to avoid doing things that are going to fuel the cycle of rumination. For example, isolating yourself, seeking frequent reassurance, excessive behaviors like scrolling, overeating, napping, or dwelling excessively on the problem can increase rumination.

5) Engage in Inner Child Play

As adults, we often lose touch with the spontaneity of childhood and get caught up in the responsibilities of daily life. Engaging with your inner child can help provide a much-needed escape from the pressures of adulthood and help foster your sense of freedom and creativity.

My sister has been skating for the past couple of years, and I can see the sense of joy it brings to her life. Inner child play does not have to be complicated, and it has many different forms. Whether you watch a childhood favorite movie or enjoy the swing set at the park, the key is to embrace each moment with childlike curiosity. There is no goal attached, no time limits- it's just enjoying the moment.

Inner child play allows you to revisit your childhood experiences in a safe environment. When you uncover and address unresolved emotions from your past, you offer yourself the validation you may have lacked as a child.

For example, if you grew up with a parent who struggled with alcohol use, you may remember tiptoeing around their unpredictable behavior, feeling unseen or unheard. When you engage in inner child play, you are able to create a space where you are in control and setting the rules. You get to reclaim your sense of agency that might have been absent when you were growing up.

Think of inner child play as an act of self-care, allowing you to heal the wounds of neglect and ways to validate yourself.

6) Schedule Times of 'Being' 

Scheduling times of being can significantly help your self-growth journey. In our ever-moving, overstimulated, and constantly changing world, most of us rarely pause to think about what we are doing. When you learn to set time aside to be present without any expectations, obligations, or distractions, you can create spaces to pause, reflect, and recharge.

If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, it could be hard to find spaces of 'being,' especially if you are surrounded by constant chaos and conflict; it can be hard to find moments of peace. However, it is possible. Try to find short breaks during the day or find places outside, like a park or library, where you can have some quiet time. Remember, times of 'being' do not have to be extended. Even a few minutes of being connected with the present moment can help you feel better even when everything around you feels out of control.

My younger sister used to go to cafes close to the house to take tea breaks or write in her room. I like to work out and spend some alone time with myself. There is really no wrong way of doing this. Activities like taking a walk in nature, stretching your body, journaling, watching the sunrise or sunset, and sitting with your thoughts are all great ways to reconnect with yourself on a deeper level.

My mental health goals for 2024 also include prioritizing self-care practices like times to just be present and as challenging as it has been, it has been a game changer for my mental health.  

7) Check-in With Your Body

Growing up in a dysfunctional family environment can often lead to disconnection from our bodies. We are more focused on surviving emotional turbulence than on our physical needs. We learn to suppress or ignore our body sensations and needs for an extended time as a way to cope with the overwhelming stress and unpredictability of our environment.

This can lead to dissociation from your body as a way to numb painful emotions or memories. When this dissociation becomes ingrained, it can make it challenging to address your physical needs effectively. The goal is to make an intentional effort to check in with your body and how it is responding to your environment.

To check in with your body, you can simply start by pausing throughout the day and noticing any physical sensations you are experiencing at that moment. This could include noticing tension in your body, shallow breathing, or physical symptoms like heart racing, sweating, headache, stomach discomfort, etc. to start gaining a deeper awareness of how your body responds in different situations.

When you start checking in with your body and scanning different areas, you can also start engaging in activities that prompt relaxation, such as yoga, deep breathing exercises, getting enough sleep, eating nutrient-dense meals, or movement to allow a stronger mind-body connection. You can also simply ask yourself at the moment, 'What do I need right now?' and brainstorm different things that can help, including connection, food, intimacy, acceptance, compassion, space, choice, etc. This is a trial and error process, so learn to focus on how you are feeling once that need is met.

For some people raised in an unhealthy dynamic, checking in with their bodies can be challenging due to ingrained survival mechanisms. When you are exposed to constant conflict, unpredictability, chaos, or neglect, you may have developed higher states of hypervigilance and disassociating as a way to cope with the stress. Dissociation becomes a familiar response to distressing situations as you learn to detach from your physical and emotional experiences to protect yourself. When this pattern becomes ingrained, it makes it challenging to address body sensations or even have an awareness of this pattern. Seeking support from mental health professionals can help overcome this barrier and help you reestablish trust in your own body.

This process takes time and patience, and it's important to take your time with it. When you start checking in with yourself, pay attention to your body's cues and when you may need to pause or take a step back if the process feels too much. Learning to reconnect with your body after years of dissociation can feel overwhelming at times, and it is okay to seek guidance from a therapist who can support you.

Remember to check in with your body as part of your mental health goals for 2024. 

8) Get To Know Yourself 

If you grew up in a dysfunctional family environment, it can be hard to figure out who you really are beneath all the expectations and chaos. The focus often revolves around surviving the day-to-day challenges, leading to a lack of space for personal exploration or self-expression.

Making the effort to know yourself should be at the forefront of your mental health goals for 2024. This mental health goal has been something I am working on, and let me tell you, it has been so interesting to see how I internalized the dysfunction, adopted roles or behaviors that were not true to who I am, and how that led to identity confusion. I did things out of survival vs. exploring myself and what I like, dislike, or what makes me tick.

It is SO important to get to know yourself because that is what will allow you to break free from similar roles and beliefs that keep you stuck in the patterns. By understanding your likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses, you can make choices that are aligned with what you truly desire. So, start by permitting yourself to explore. Start by exploring different hobbies or activities that seem interesting to you. Whether that is hiking, journaling, or traveling, don't be afraid to dive into it and explore how you feel about it.

Remember, self-growth is NOT a race or a destination; it is a journey that will help you discover parts of yourself that might surprise you, challenge you, or change you, and that's okay. It's okay to take time to nurture the relationship you have with yourself—it's the most important one you will ever have.

9) Try Something Outside of Your Comfort Zone

Growing up in an unhealthy family dynamic can lead to a fear of taking risks or stepping into unfamiliar territory. Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone (even a little) can lead to personal growth and self-discovery.

People raised in dysfunctional families often grow up in uncertain and unpredictable environments, resulting in a preference for sticking to what may feel safe and, well, predictable. The idea of doing something that could disrupt their sense of security can feel scary.

However, I encourage you to remind yourself that our comfort zone only provides us temporary relief and can also limit our personal growth. When you gradually expose yourself to unfamiliar situations and new experiences, you have the opportunity to face uncertainty and develop resilience. You also experience a sense of self-assurance that fosters your overall well-being.

Stepping outside of your comfort zone does not have to mean doing extreme things. It can be as simple as trying a new activity or speaking up for yourself in situations you usually stay silent about. The goal is to challenge yourself in small ways that help build your confidence. It allows you to show yourself that you are capable and can embrace the uncertainty that comes with trying new things.

I am trying to go to more dance workshops since that feels super intimidating for me. Going to workshops that are led by someone I know or requesting not to be on camera while dancing are some ways I get to test out how I am feeling before trying other things. The beauty of it is that you get to set your own limits and boundaries. I usually surprise myself with what I am capable of achieving.

So why not incorporate trying something outside of your comfort zone into your mental health goals for 2024? Lean into the discomfort and notice how great it feels to try something different. 

10) Attend Therapy Sessions

A therapist encouraging people to attend therapy sessions? Shocker, right? Haha. But really, therapy is for everyone. However, it can be particularly helpful if you were raised in a dysfunctional family environment. When you have a safe space to process the complex emotions, thoughts, and experiences that have shaped your upbringing, you can work towards healing and self-growth.

Therapy can be a great place to gain coping strategies, improve communication skills, tools to navigate family challenges, process your unresolved trauma, and work on challenging your negative thought patterns and beliefs. Through ongoing sessions, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself and understand how your past may be influencing your present behaviors.

If you cannot afford therapy at this time, it can be helpful to look for sliding scale options or online resources like support groups or mental health self-help books.

Why not make attending regular therapy a part of your mental health goals for 2024? 

Mental Health Goals for 2024: Dos and Dont's

1) Don't Fall into the 'All-or-Nothing' Trap 

It can be easy to fall into the all-or-nothing thinking trap when setting mental health goals. All-or-nothing is the tendency to see your goals in a very black or white way, with no middle ground. This can lead to setting unrealistic expectations.

For example, let's say you set a goal of reading for 20 minutes a day but miss one day and see yourself as a failure and give up on the goal altogether. This mindset can prevent you from celebrating the progress, leading to increased self-criticism. Remember, the goal is not perfection or expecting instant results- that is a recipe for frustration and disappointment.

So why not ditch the all-or-nothing mindset when it comes to your mental health goals for 2024? Remember, progress is the key to success. 

Do This Instead:  Embrace flexibility

It can be hard to break the thought patterns associated with all-or-nothing thinking, but it is possible. Challenge yourself to embrace a mindset of gradual progress and flexibility, which will lead to incremental improvements. Remember that setbacks are a natural (and important) part of the process, and small steps forward still count.

If you find yourself fixated on perfection, gently notice the thoughts and acknowledge that you are getting caught up in the cycle of all-or-nothing. Break your goal into smaller steps and celebrate small victories. Challenge yourself to embrace the change, and instead of giving up the goal entirely, name the things that you have done right.

2) Don't Compare Your Progress to Others

You know that famous saying, 'Comparison is the thief of all joy? ' That could not be more applicable here. Why not make 'don't compare your progress to others' a mantra you repeat to yourself as you work on your mental health goals for 2024.? 

Comparing your progress to others can diminish your own accomplishments and increase feelings of self-doubt and inadequateness.

Do This Instead: Embrace a mindset of self-compassion 

Remember, your mental health journey is unique, and it's essential you celebrate yourself and your progress, no matter how small. When you embrace a mindset of self-compassion, you extend yourself the gift of recognizing that everyone's path is different and your goals are personalized to you. 

Choose to surround yourself with people who will give you this reminder and uplift you when you can't do it for yourself. When you shift your focus inward and honor your journey, you can stop fueling comparison or competition. 

3) Don't Set Unrealistic Expectations 

One of the biggest reasons I have seen people give up on their mental health goals is because they are not realistic or personalized to them. People tend to set very ambitious goals without considering their capabilities and circumstances, which leads to falling short of their high expectations.

When you set unrealistic expectations, you can feel overwhelmed, feel like you're failing or inadequate, and, once again, give up on the goal entirely. Striving for unattainable standards only fuels your anxiety and stress.

For example, let's say someone has a goal of wanting to resolve deep-seated family conflicts within a short period. While that goal is understandable, it is important to acknowledge that family dynamics are complex, and you can't make anyone do something they do not want to do. You have to focus on yourself. Goals like learning to set boundaries or improve communication skills within the family unit over time are more attainable and measurable compared to the other goals.

Remember, mental health goals for 2024 are all about consistency and progress, not perfection, so don't let unrealistic expectations constantly get in the way as you work towards a healthier mindset. 

Do This Instead: Set Goals that are challenging yet attainable 

When setting mental health goals for yourself, think about where you are with your current circumstances. Take into account your access to resources, current abilities, and limitations. You want to break up bigger goals into smaller, more manageable goals and be willing to adjust your expectations when needed.

Remember, your plans may not go as you want every single time, but the goal is to celebrate your progress along the way and build on your goals.

Setting mental health goals for 2024 is an important step to prioritize your mental well-being and investment in yourself.

Remember, progress CAN be slow, and setbacks are normal. Your mental health journey is unique and worth the effort.

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Nisha Patel

My name is Nisha Patel. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and the face behind the space Brown Girl Trauma (BGT). BGT is a Mental Health and Self-Growth Community for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families. The central question that drives my work is, “How can we break the cycle of family dysfunction?” To answer that question, I like to write about ways to reparent your inner child through healthy self-growth & mental health practices- addressing your unmet needs.

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