It’s tempting to set some New Year’s Resolutions – some goals to motivate and inspire, to give direction and focus. Â Is that a good idea though? A 2013Â University of LiverpoolÂ study found that people with depression have more generalised personal goals than non-depressed people. Â The inevitable failure to attain broad and abstract goals can maintain and exacerbate depression.
In the study, depressed and non-depressed participants were asked to list goals they would like to achieve at any time in the short, medium or long-term. The goals were categorised for their specificity â€“ for example a global or abstract goal such as, â€˜to be happyâ€™ would represent a general goal, whereas, a goal such as â€˜improve my 5-mile marathon time this summerâ€™ would represent a more specific goal.
Researchers found that whilst both groups generated the same number of goals, people with depression listed goals which were more general and more abstract. The study also found that depressed people were far more likely to give non-specific reasons for achieving and not achieving their goals.
‘SMART‘ goals are goodÂ though. The Australian Black Dog Institute has published aÂ goal setting chart, saying ” (SMART)Â goal setting is a useful technique at any time but has many significant benefits forÂ people who have been depressed and/or suicidal because:
1. It promotes a focus on the future.
2. It can be used in combination with problem-solving, a technique known to be an effective
strategy for depression and deliberate self-harm.
3. It promotes the process of breaking down problems into small, achievable goals.
4. It can also highlight whether the goals are possible. Having impossible goals can increase a
sense of anger, or frustration and helplessness.
5. It can be used by individuals, alone or in association with partners, families, colleagues.
6. It can promote useful discussion with significant others.”