Jan. 10 2017

Your New Year’s Resolutions, One Week at a Time

Being deliberate about taking action every week toward achieving your goals can help make them stick throughout the year, according to the Mondays Campaigns

Every year around this time—a week or two into January—many Americans have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions to lead healthier lives. Surveys suggest that by December 31, just 8 percent of the population will achieve the goals they set for the year.

To help make more of our resolutions stick—and help make the country more healthy—public health advocates at the Monday Campaigns, an initiative supported by the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Columbia University, have a few tried-and-true suggestions.

Whether it’s a resolution to quit smoking, eat healthier, or exercise more, according to the group’s meta-analysis of thirteen studies into the subject, the more specific our intentions, the more likely they are to succeed over the long term. Often, resolutions fail because they’re too broad, vague, or unrealistic. Action plans outlining the hows, whys, and whens of milestones along the way helps avoids pitfalls. It’s also important to keep your goals top of mind in the months ahead.

One way to keep your New Year’s resolutions a top priority, according to the Mondays Campaign, is treat every Monday like January 1 and take action to do something toward achieving your goals every week.

On their website, the Monday Campaigns provides suggestions and action steps for several weekly versions for common New Year’s resolutions: among them are Move It Monday, for those wanting to get in shape; Meatless Monday, for people who aim to eat less meat; and DeStress Monday, for those pledging to be more mindful in 2017.

“Around January 1, a large portion of the population is already thinking about how they want to lead healthier lives,” says Gina Wingood, the Sidney and Helaine Lerner Professor of Public Health Promotion at the Mailman School and the Director of Columbia’s Lerner Center. “It’s important that we use the science behind goal setting to tap into the New Year’s resolution mindset and help people find effective ways to make their health goals stick all year round.”

Resolutions within the Mailman School community often go beyond the usual “exercise more and eat right” goals, but the idea of setting implementation intentions is just as relevant. Students, faculty, and staff can set weekly or monthly goals to achieve their pledges to volunteer more, to be more active on issues such as reproductive health, climate change, and health disparities, and to find new ways to create a healthier world, whether it’s through advocacy, research, or community work.

For students graduating in the spring, finding a job tops many a New Year’s Resolutions list. The Mailman School’s Career Services team provides several resources that can be used to map out a specific action plan as recommended by the Monday Campaigns. Job-seeking students have weekly opportunities to consult with Career Services through individual meetings, resume improvement events, interviewing workshops, employer visits to campus, and the annual trip to Washington, DC, to meet with companies, government agencies, and NGOs. (Check out the Mailman School event calendar for specific events and dates.)

No matter the resolution, the Monday Campaigns’ approach is a helpful reminder: goals to improve personal and community health aren’t just for January 1.