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It’s tempting to set some New Year’s Resolutions – some goals to motivate and inspire, to give direction and focus.  Is that a good idea though? A 2013 University of Liverpool study found that people with depression have more generalised personal goals than non-depressed people.  The inevitable failure to attain broad and abstract goals can maintain and exacerbate depression.

resolutionsIn 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 – for example a global or abstract goal such as, ‘to be happy’ would represent a general goal, whereas, a goal such as ‘improve my 5-mile marathon time this summer’ 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 good though. The Australian Black Dog Institute has published a goal setting chart, saying ” (SMART) goal setting is a useful technique at any time but has many significant benefits for 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.”

goals – be careful what you wish for

4 thoughts on “goals – be careful what you wish for

  • Hi Libby 🙂 I just found your site by reading “A Hangover Free Life”. I personally hate New Years Resolutions, as they only set me up for failure. Congrats on one year AF, I am on day 220 AF, after much trial and error over the past 4-5 years. Looking forward to following your blog and reading your older posts! xx

    1. Hello Lori, thanks for your comment and for looking round the site. Congrats on 220 days alcohol free, keep it going! x

  • Dear Libby,
    I too found your blog on “A Hangover Free Life”.
    I am 121 days AF.
    My depression is much better now that I don’t drink, but still a “problem”.
    I too look forward in reading your older posts!
    This one is good. As a teacher I know about SMART goals, but never applied them to my own life. I can see this being very helpful, so I don’t get overwhelmed and then give up!

    1. Hello there and thanks for your comment. Congrats on 121 days alcohol free. I think I probably got to 180 days AF before I could relax my focus on the not drinking enough to tackle some more anti-depression tactics. Really small, specific goals are a great help I find, especially if I can make them into habits that don’t then require any thought/willpower. x

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