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5 Goal-setting tips for a healthier, more mindful life

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Julia Malacoff May, 13, 2019

Writer, trainer, nail art aficionado

Most of us want to be healthier, more mindful and better human beings in general. But wanting to change is easy — figuring out how to work toward self-development can be a bit trickier!

Luckily for you, some of the best goal-setting tips are also the simplest. Here's what you need to know.

Tips for setting great goals

You're not going to change your entire life overnight, so it's wise to start by breaking larger goals down into smaller ones. If you want to run a marathon, try going for that 5K first! Then you can work up to a 10K, half-marathon and eventually make it to a full marathon. This strategy — known as "chunking" — helps your successes build on each other and gives you the momentum to reach larger goals.

Once you have a list of target goals, it's a good idea to make sure they're all SMART. Ask yourself:

  • Specific: What's the specific goal you want to accomplish?

  • Measurable: How will you know you've accomplished it?

  • Attainable: Is your goal realistic?

  • Relevant: How does it help you get where you want to go?

  • Time-bound: When do you need to reach your goal?

If you can answer these questions about your goals, then you can consider them SMART. Goals that follow this framework are typically easier to stick to because you'll know exactly what you're doing, when you're supposed to do it and if you're succeeding!

Eager to get some goals down, but need some inspiration? Here are five life-enhancing goals you can gradually work toward using the goal-setting tips outlined above.

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1. Skip meat 1 day a week

Going from meat eater to total vegetarian is no easy task. But reducing your meat intake by just one day a week can have a positive impact on the environment. Instead of going cold turkey on all animal products, set an attainable goal and try to find a new meatless recipe each week to test out.

2. Set aside time to let loose

Sometimes, all you need to feel happier is a chance to release pent-up energy. However, if you tell yourself you're going to set aside time to do that every day right off the bat, you could be setting yourself up for failure! Instead, choose a realistic goal — say, taking a few minutes to blow off steam three times a week — and make it specific by figuring out exactly when you have time to devote each day.

After that, the possibilities are limitless: Some people might enjoy waking up with a morning dance party as they get ready for work, while others may prefer to do something silly, like surprising a co-worker by taking them out to "lunch" and bringing them to a much-hyped ice cream shop for a midday treat. No matter what you choose, a lighthearted moment can lift your spirits instantly.

3. Finally conquer that obstacle

There's no better feeling than trying something that scares you a little bit — and totally nailing it. Case in point, that indoor rock climbing route you've been thinking about attempting during your regular sessions at the wall, but keep avoiding. Not a climber? You can apply this idea to any physical pursuit!

Pinpoint a feat you want to feel more comfortable with and create time to work toward it. Whether you're trying to make it to the top of the wall, finish a race under a certain time, or simply keep your legs straight while practicing downward dog, set a deadline for yourself — remember, a realistic one — and go for it!

4. Make Sunday meal prep day

A big part of staying healthy comes down to what we put in our bodies, but simply vowing to "eat better" isn't likely to get you very far. Instead, identify a specific action you can take to improve your diet, like setting aside a few hours to grocery shop and meal prep each Sunday.

This is a little change that will have a huge impact — after just a few hours of planning, shopping and cooking, you can have a week's worth of meals (as well as snacks, if you're being really thorough). Once you've developed a good routine, you can top it off with another healthy goal, like including veggies in your dinner each night.

5. Catch up with a friend

Research has proven that quality friendships and relationships are key to a long, healthy life. But as life gets busier, sometimes we tend to assume that our friendships are still solid, even if we haven't checked in for a while. One of the most effective things you can do to improve your relationships is simply to keep in touch.

To work toward this, try setting a weekly goal to call at least one friend you haven't talked to recently. Once you're communicating more regularly, it'll likely become easier for you to stay in contact with other friends and family members. Chances are you've missed out on at least a few hilarious stories — maybe it's time you heard them!

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