Why You Should Be Tracking Your Mental Health

There’s no doubt about it: talking about mental health, especially your own, can be difficult. Having discussions about mental health and mental illness unfortunately carries a stigma that can prevent people from seeking help – and even stop them from helping themselves.

However, not only is it important to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, it’s also valuable to keep track of how you’re doing mentally on a daily basis. Paying attention to and keeping track of your mental health has benefits that span from the immediate to the long term.

Here are a few reasons why you should be tracking your mental health for a happier, healthier you.

Mental health is as important as physical health.

We have a pretty strong preoccupation with physical appearance and health in our society. Think about it: the most popular New Year resolution is to lose weight, largely because people can put on a few pounds over the holidays and want to slim down before spring. However, as easy as it can be to forget, mental health is just as important as physical health for a beneficial lifestyle.

It’s easy to take mental health for granted, as there aren’t necessarily visible symptoms. There are signs, but it often takes a certain level of knowledge about mental health in general to pick up on them – especially in yourself. Because of this, many people don’t recognize their mental health issues until they manifest as physical symptoms like headaches, heart palpitations, changes in appetite, or insomnia.

However, mental wellbeing matters just as much as physical wellbeing, as neglecting mental health issues can cause your work, relationships, and even your physical health to suffer. For instance, a 2012 study found that individuals with a mental illness reported more physical health issues than those without – suggesting a strong connection between the two.

This is all to say that mental and physical health should be treated with the same importance for an overall healthy life, so checking in with yourself about your mental health status – just like you would count calories or record your exercises – will provide benefits beyond just a healthier mindset.

You need to set goals to reach them.

Even for those who recognize the importance of mental health, not setting mental health goals can obstruct progress. People who write their goals down are 50% more likely to achieve them than people who don’t, so goal setting is a significant help to mental well being for a few different reasons.

For one, setting goals helps to provide focus on a daily basis. Trying to work towards something as abstract as better mental health can be tough, as it’s hard to figure out where you should direct your efforts. By setting a specific goal – like, say, getting out of bed before 8 AM every day – you’re giving yourself a clear target to shoot for.

Goals also keep you from getting distracted, as having a certain end point in mind provides you with mental boundaries to work within. For example, if you know you need to be at an appointment at 12:30 PM and you know it’s a 15-minute walk to get there, it’s unlikely that you’ll get distracted by anything when you leave at 12:15. Since the goal helps you stay locked into the process, you’re more likely to achieve it. The same goes for mental health-related goals, as having something to focus on – and tracking it regularly – will help prevent you from getting sidetracked.

When setting mental health goals, you have a few options. You can set short-term, easily-achievable goals or come up with something bigger to work towards. Think about what brings you joy, where you want your life to go, or just how you want to feel on a daily basis. By tracking your small steps taken towards them, you can keep up your motivation.

If you want to learn more about mental health tracking methods, check out the full version of this article on Medium.