When we think about changing our lives, completing large projects, or improving our mental health, we can often feel crushed by the mountain of work that seem to be needed to get to the finish line.

We then feel overwhelmed by this daunting beast and decide to retreat to something that reduces our distress but maintains our problems (e.g., watching TV, playing games, taking a nap).

It is therefore important to understand that the journey of a thousand miles really does begin with one step. And that first step can be made as simple as possible to set yourself up for success. Here, we can follow the adage: “if the action feels too difficult, then the step was too big”.

In this post, I provide examples of simple SMART Goals you can apply today to generate some momentum and hopefully improve your mental health.

What are SMART Goals?

Most of you already know what SMART Goals are (here’s a post on SMART Goals and how to use them if interested). In essence SMART Goals are: Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time Bound.

When setting SMART goals, it is important for the goal to be something that you are likely to be able to complete and likely to provide you benefits (i.e., a good bang for your buck). You want to set yourself up for success as much as possible.

Below are some examples of possible SMART Goals. Choose and modify them as appropriate to make them feel more actionable. For example, you might reduce the time engaging in the activity or pair it with something naturally rewarding. And remember: the hardest part is getting started.

Examples of Simple SMART Goals in Different Domains

As discussed, you don’t have to do all of them; just one is great to get the ball rolling. You might even notice some more momentum as you go along.

Activating Behaviours

Sometimes we need to give a little to get a little. Activating behaviours help to increase our mood and energy by getting our body going. When we are tired, our body pulls for rest, so some of these goals can help break out of that cycle.

  • Get out of bed in the morning within 5 to 10 minutes
  • Sit by the window or going outside to get some sunlight
  • Take a 5 to 10 minute walk
  • Listen to one of your favorite songs
  • Do 10 push-ups (can be modified if too difficult)

Productivity / Learning

Developing greater mastery and being productive in our world helps to foster a sense of self-efficacy. It is also an essential component of behavioural activation, which is an evidence-based therapy for depression.

  • Read at least 1 page of a book
  • Make your bed
  • Take 5 minutes to clean your room or house
  • Work 10 minutes on your project
  • Complete one chore (e.g., laundry, shopping)

Social health

Human beings are innately social creatures; therefore, forming and maintaining social connections can be helpful to improve our overall mental wellbeing. For those who are a bit more introverted, here are a few goals that may be a bit more accessible.

  • Ask out a friend for lunch
  • Call a parent or loved one
  • Smile and wave at one stranger throughout the day  
  • Ask the cashier how their day is going  

General Health

Engaging in healthy behaviours make us feel better and increase our ability to tackle life’s problem. A few small things you can do today:

  • Drink a glass of water
  • Do a 5 minute yoga routine
  • Make a healthy meal for yourself
  • Go to bed on time
  • Meditate for 3 minutes


Life can be a constant source of stress which can deplete us if we are not nourishing ourselves properly. One way to increase our resources and reduce vulnerability is through self-care activities. I’ll give some examples below but you can be creative in personalizing small things you can do for yourself.  

  • Cozy up with a tea and a nice book/show
  • Take a warm bath
  • Try out a new restaurant you’ve been wanting to go to
  • Smell some scented candles
  • Engage in one of your hobbies (e.g., painting, making music)
  • Writing down two or three things you are grateful for in your life (small or big)

Dealing with negative thoughts

When we are at a low point, it’s easy for negative thoughts and beliefs to invade our mind and act as barriers to engaging in SMART goals. For example, you might have thoughts like “it’s not going to help” and “this is just a drop in the bucket”, which can demotivate us from taking action.

When we are depressed or feeling low, it’s understandable for these thoughts to come out. During this time, it’s helpful to recognize that these thinking errors maintain our depression and may be considered thinking errors. For example, one common thinking error is emotional reasoning – this is when we think based on our emotions rather than based on facts. “I feel tired therefore I cannot clean my room”. In these cases, try to remember that our behaviours can often precede how we feel (e.g., we don’t feel like going to work but we do it anyways). Sometimes, once you get started you’ll notice that your emotion change too!

To deal with negative thoughts, a thought record can be a helpful tool to challenge our limiting beliefs.


Mental health is not defined by monumental accomplishments in our lives. Rather, it’s defined by the small habits that make up our day to day. I recognize that these goals may not solve existential crises, significant stressors, or very real systemic problems that may be the source of your problems right now, but I hope completing a few of these adds a little brightness to your day to day life.

Best wishes,