It’s that time of year again! As we merge into 2017, many Americans will start to think about new directions for the upcoming year. New Year’s Resolutions are more well-known for their short lives rather than for their success. An oft-quoted study from 2002 found that only 8% of the study participants were successful in achieving their resolutions.1
Would you like to be in that very special 8% group? This article from the American Psychological Association gives some tips on sticking to a resolution. Breaking down your goal into a number you can measure and then focusing on the smaller number helps with motivation. The author, Dr. Wallin, uses the following example:
Example #1: Suppose you’re on the treadmill, with a goal of covering three miles. You’re feeling kind of sluggish. You glance at the display and notice that you’ve reached the one-mile mark. How you talk to yourself about this information can make a big difference. Which of the following self-statement do you think would give you more motivation to continue:
A. I’m already a third of the way there.
B. Still two-thirds of the way to go.
Example #2: You’ve lost 8 lb, with the goal of 10 total. There’s a birthday cake in the break room at the office. You’ve managed to avoid unnecessary sugar for several weeks. Which of the following self-statements would better help you stick to your eating plan:
A. I’ve already lost 8 lb.
B. Just 2 more lb. to go.
Chances are that for both the above examples, focusing on the smaller number is more likely to keep you motivated.
Speaking of the focusing on the smaller number, a recent study from Washington University, as reported in The Source, shows that 5% weight loss has significant health benefits for obese patients. Dr. Samuel Klein said, “If you weigh 200 pounds, you will be doing yourself a favor if you can lose 10 pounds and keep it off. You don’t have to lose 50 pounds to get important health benefits.”
Some of the most popular health-related resolutions are to get more physically fit, quit smoking, reduce stress, and get more sleep. Below are some resources on these topics. But, as always, when it comes to health issues, please consult a health care professional before making a change in your diet or exercise plan.
Health Information Resources
If you’re a WashU employee, there are many resources available through WashU’s Wellness Connection WebMD Portal, such as the WashU Moves Challenge, health assessments, health information, and a health coach to get you started. For example, using "My Health Assistant", you can sign up to set a goal from a list, such as "Enjoy Exercise", and track how often you exercise.
Becker Medical Library and the Family Resource Center have some print books and e-books on the topics of fitness, sleep and stress relief, both for consumer health and patient care. For quick links, the Healthy Lifestyles tab on Becker Medical Library’s Consumer Health Subject Guide has a list of resources to promote a healthy lifestyle for the New Year. Do you like apps? The Family Resource Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital has created Appliographies (lists of approved apps) for common health concerns. Check out their list of Healthy Habits Apps and Stress Management.
Increasing physical activity, losing weight, and starting a diet are very popular New Year’s resolutions. This article from the Mayo Clinic has some tips for sticking to your weight-loss plan. Dr. Hensrud says that enthusiasm for resolutions often wanes after a couple of weeks. It is helpful to revisit your resolution at the beginning of each month. Other key takeaways:
- Make sure you have time and resources for the plan you created
- Ensure your plan includes ways to make it enjoyable
- Make short-term goals that add up to meet one long-term goal
Need help making a plan? The Weight-Control Information Network (WIN) says that an effective weight-loss program should include the following:
- A plan to keep the weight off over the long run
- Guidance on how to develop healthier eating and physical activity habits
- Ongoing feedback, monitoring, and support
- Slow and steady weight-loss goals—usually ½ to 2 pounds per week
WIN also has some tips for healthy eating and increasing physical activity in their publication, Better Health and You.
Sleep and Stress Relief
Getting more sleep is a great way to start the New Year, but how? The Washington University Sleep Medicine Center provides a list of tips for sleeping well, such as avoiding caffeine at least six hours before bedtime and getting out of bed at the same time every day. Are you worried that you may have a sleep disorder? They also have a list of signs on their website, such as sleepwalking or waking up with a headache.
Being less-stressed is another popular resolution. Medline Plus provides information about stress and a list of some relaxation techniques. This article from the Source features a video by fitness expert Lynda Anderson showing step-by-step breathing techniques and stretches, plus lots of other tips for stress relief, such as “Kathryn Tristan’s 5-minute Mental Marinade”. Finally, there are lots of books from Olin Library on the Danforth Campus about meditation and relaxation.
Another great way to get healthy in the new year is to quit smoking. There is a free service from Smokefree.gov that sends text messages for 24/7 support. There are programs that give advice, encouragement, and tips for quitting, and also programs for preparing to quit.
WashU’s employee Wellness Connection has a program to quit smoking. Visit their website to find out more about group sessions, individual consultations, and a list of other resources for quitting.
A lot of research has been completed at Washington University on smoking cessation. As of today, there are 45 published articles indexed in Medline about smoking cessation by WashU authors, and there are over 1,000 publications in Digital Commons, WUSM’s digital repository for scholarly work. Currently, one clinical study at WashU is still recruiting participants for smoking cessation. Find out more here.
Whether your New Year’s Resolution for 2017 is health-related, not health-related, or is non-existent, we wish you a Happy New Year!
1 Norcross JC, Mrykalo MS, Blagys MD. Auld Lang Syne: Success Predictors, Change Processes, and Self-Reported Outcomes of New Year's Resolvers and Nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology 2002;58(4):397-405. Full text for this article can be accessed through the main campus library if you are on a WUSM network or logged in to your proxy. Link