7 Tips for Setting Goals When You’re Depressed (And its Benefits)

Last Update on May 1, 2023 : Published on April 28, 2023
Tips for Setting Goals When You're Depressed

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

The road to mental health recovery looks too long when you’re standing at the starting line, but as you slowly make your way down the road, you meet some interesting challenges and victories. And soon, the road that seemed too far out of reach draws a step closer. No matter where you are on your journey, having a goal in mind can act as a driving force.

Goals are important in life, but when you’re living with depression, setting goals can be the last thing on your mind. However, that’s where we are wrong. When I was busy fighting my depression, I thought having goals isn’t (and shouldn’t) be on my to-do list. But, when I got to therapy, I realized that setting goals was probably one of the main aspects that helped me fight and survive depression.

What we forget about goal setting is that it is one of the best ways to focus your attention on what’s important. Having a goal allows you to see the next step in your life. And when you’re already struggling to make it to the next day, setting a goal can make you want to give your time and effort to life.

Let’s see how goal setting when depressed can benefit your mental health and how you set goals when in depression.

Benefits of Setting Goals

goals of therapy for depression

Setting goals can have many benefits, including helping you take stock of your present. It allows you to see what you’re doing, what you’re dealing with, and how you can work to improve your current situation. This way you can also become aware of your strengths and weaknesses and how to use them in your recovery.

Another benefit of goal setting for depression is that it provides us with a direction in which we can take our life. It’s a way to set a direction. When you have a target, the destination won’t seem too far anymore. Instead of wandering aimlessly, you’ll have a direction to walk towards.

Isn’t it amazing?

Goals can also help you set priorities and bring your focus on things that align with your desires. Simply put, when you have strong goals, it can become easier for you to simplify your life and work toward what you desire. And let’s not forget that setting goals can fill you with anticipation and eagerness that can automatically fuel you to make efforts and start your recovery as soon as possible.

Depression And Goal Setting: The Importance

Mental health has always been an important aspect of our well-being and in recent times, mental health has been getting its due attention. However, the journey to recovery can be tough, so no matter where you are on your journey, having a goal can help you move forward. One goal a day can keep confidence going. All you have to do is ask yourself,

“What is the one thing I can do this day that brings me a step closer to where I want to be?”

Once you have the answer to the question, you’ll have a goal to work with. Some studies support goal setting as one of the most important and positive aspects of our everyday lives and well-being, and I agree. But, the question arises, “Is it possible to set a goal when you’re depressed?

Living with depression can be challenging and triggering, if not downright terrifying. So, setting a goal when depressed can be quite formidable, if not impossible.

Lack of motivation is one of the reasons for not being able to set a goal. Lack of motivation, also a major symptom of depression can hinder your ability to set goals and even make it harder to believe that you can achieve your goals.

If someone is living with depression, then they’re less likely to believe that setting goals is good for them. And they’re more likely to give up on their goals if they encounter a barrier (for example; a depression relapse) on their recovery journey.

With the right support and ways, you can do it and set goals that can aid you in your recovery journey instead of making you give up, mid-way. Keep reading to get to the tips for setting goals when you’re depressed.

Goal Ideas For You!

The first thing you got to do when thinking of setting goals is to answer;

  • What is important to you in life?
  • What are your dreams?
  • What makes you truly happy?
  • What aspect of your life would you like to work on more? (relationships, career, social life, etc.)

Then, based on the answers, you can set some goals. Here are some ideas that can help you begin your goal setting for depression;

Short-Term Goals

  • Get out of bed by [preferred time]
  • Finish a household chore
  • Call a trusted friend or your support system
  • Exercise for 10 minutes
  • Stick to the routine

Long-Term Goals

  • Find a job that you enjoy
  • Get financial stability
  • Earn a degree or professional certificate
  • Exercise for 10 minutes
  • Get more involved in the community, or volunteer more

How to Set Goals When Living With Depression?

smart goals for depression

1. Create Small Goals

Without realizing, one of the common mistakes we might make when setting goals for depression is creating big goals in the beginning. What you have to do instead is to set small yet achievable goals when you’re at the starting line. You can make the goal bigger as you move forward, but when you’re just starting, make sure the goals you set are small. For example; you can start with a goal such as;

“I want to lose 5 Kg in two months, so today my goal is to replace my afternoon coffee with a decaf tea or water.

2. Engage in Self-Care

Yes, self-care can be a great way to set goals for yourself, especially when you’re living with depression. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Activities such as getting 6–8 hours of sleep, eating well, and getting regular exercise can be good starting goals when you’re depressed.

Not only that, but these activities can help reduce your depression symptoms as well.

Killing two birds with one stone, right?

3. Set Specific Yet Realistic Goals

Another mistake we often make when setting goals is that we forget to set specific goals. How will you work towards the goal when you’re not clear about them? So, make sure you set realistic yet specific goals when you are depressed.

For example; “I want to be happy.” is a good goal, but it’s not specific, is it? How do you measure happiness? How do you visualize happiness? No idea, right? On the other hand, you can set this kind of specific goal when you’re on your way to recovery;

I want to spend each Sunday afternoon with my family playing board games and not use our phones for one hour.

4. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals

SMART goals are smart! When you’re goal-setting for depression, make it so that the goals you set are not just realistic or specific but S.M.A.R.T. as well. SMART goals are objective, clear, and measurable.

So, when you’re setting goals, keep these five things in mind;

  • Specific – What is your goal, when it is expected to happen, why is it important, which area of life is it targeting, who is involved in it, and where should it take place?
  • Measurable – How is this goal measurable? Is there a specific criterion?
  • Actionable – Is the goal easily attainable?
  • Realistic – Is your goal realistic? Can you realistically achieve it?
  • Timely – Does the goal have a deadline or a timeframe you can keep track of your progress?

5. Don’t Hesitate to Share Your Goals

When you’re setting goals or have a plan in mind, don’t hesitate to share it with your loved ones or support system. Your support people can help you keep track of your progress, celebrate small victories, and keep encouraging you when or if you need it. Sharing your goals is also a good way to assure that you stay connected to your loved ones, gain confidence with each day, and stay on the road to recovery.

It’ll be like having your personal cheerleader wherever you go!

6. Be Kind to Yourself

Depression is a serious mental health condition and can turn your life upside down. This disorder can make you lose faith in yourself, lose hope in life, and increase the negativity around you. All of this can take a toll on the way you set goals for depression recovery. During these moments, I want you to remember to be kind to yourself. Please understand that goal-setting is a process and there will always be failures as well as victories.

When things begin to fall apart, take a breath, pause, and move on to the next day.

7. Lastly, Don’t Forget Gratitude

Now that you know how to set goals when you are depressed, you need to express your gratitude. In the end, it’s about staying positive and on the track to recovery. To do that, you need to learn how to be grateful for the journey you’re on. Find something in life that you can always be grateful for (and that aligns with your goal directly). For example, you can say,

I am grateful that I can easily access the park in my neighborhood to keep my exercise going.

What Next?

Living with depression can be debilitating and mentally weakening, but it is also something that teaches us the value of little things in life like gratitude, love, hope, and help. When you’re depressed, it can be hard to do simple things like getting out of bed, but when you’re on the road to recovery from depression, learning how to set goals can give you encouragement and support at every step of the way.

Most importantly, you don’t have to do all of it alone. You can reach out and connect with a therapist who can help you set goals for yourself when you’re depressed. With the right treatment, help, and support system, recovery from depression will not be out of reach anymore.

I hope you can take something good and motivating away from this blog. To connect with me, you can leave me a message at info@calmsage.com or on Calm Sage’s official social media account.

Keep Going!

About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.


  1. K

    Thank you for sharing your article with helpful tips to help me get back in the game. I feel like I am sitting on the side lines just trying to keep my head above water and survive. I used to be that person that had goals, but the depression has hit me pretty hard and changed how I live life. I feel overwhelmed with the basic things sometimes. I appreciate you!!

    1. CS Team
      CS Team

      Hi Kim, Thank you for your comment. We Are Able to Help you. Always Keep In Mind, This Shall too PASS and never Lose Hope.

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