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For the Public Health by Mondi Mason, Ph.D., MPH
SMART New Years resolutions
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    It’s time again for New Year’s resolutions. Many of us are resolving to make a lifestyle change to improve our health, such as exercise regularly, lose some weight, quit smoking, or get a health screening.  Remember, change is a process, not an event, and it takes a long-term commitment and requires a supportive environment.
    One thing that health and business professionals learn early is how to make “SMART” goals.  SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.  As you write down the goals or changes you want to make in 2008, be sure to make them SMART!
    1. Specific — Your resolutions should state exactly what you want to achieve.  The more specific the better.  A well written resolution will not only help you create a plan for meeting your goal, but also will include an incentive for achieving it.
    For example, losing weight is a great general goal, but a specific goal would say, “Lose 10 pounds in time for my class reunion in August. I will do this by walking one hour every other day at Mill Creek Park and eating meals not totaling more than 1800 calories a day.”
    2. Measurable — If you write down a specific resolution, it will most likely include concrete, measurable components such as “how much?” and “how many?” When you know you are progressing toward meeting these smaller goals, you will be more motivated toward meeting your larger overall resolution.
    3. Achievable — When something is important to you, you can go right out and make change happen.  Other times, however, you may need to begin to develop attitudes and skills to achieve what you want. If you don’t feel like you can achieve your resolution on your own, call upon friends, family members, or health professionals to support you in your efforts.
    4. Realistic — To be realistic, a resolution must be something which you are willing and able to work toward.  If you truly believe that it can be accomplished, your goal is probably realistic. But remember, fulfilling your resolution isn’t an all or nothing proposition.  Take the time you need to plan accordingly, build in a support system, and set motivational milestones to celebrate the successes during your journey toward meeting your goal.
    5. Time — Having a time frame, or a deadline, can help you accomplish your goal.  With no time frame, there may not be a sense of urgency to your resolution. If you want to get a health screening, ask yourself, by what date you want to get it completed.  “Sometime in 2008” won’t work. But if you give yourself a deadline, “by May 1,” then you are more likely to make it happen because your subconscious will be nagging you until you get it done. 
    The SMART method of making resolutions can be used with most any lifestyle and personal development change you want to make. Making goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely, in an environment with supportive friends and family should lead to a happy and healthy New Year.
    Mondi Mason, Ph.D., MPH, is an assistant professor of Community Health Behavior and Education in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University.
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