• HS - NY Resolution

    By Dr. Kerrie Berends

    It’s that time of year again. Individuals across the globe are getting ready to wrap up the year and are looking forward to a fresh start on January 1. There’s something appealing and motivating about a “fresh start.” Whether it is referred to as a “clean slate” or “new beginning,” the term is not as important as the implications. Renewed goals and a fresh outlook are often expressed in more tangible terms this time of year and referred to as “New Year’s resolutions.”

    New Year’s resolutions are common personal commitments to self-improvement and a large majority of these life promises typically involves becoming healthier (e.g., losing weight, working out). The Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines a New Year’s resolution as “a promise that you can make to yourself to start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the year.” It sounds simple enough. Just start (or stop) doing something, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and most resolutions are not met. So why is it so difficult for people to meet their goals to improve health?

    The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change is a model based on the premise that individuals move through Stages of Change when modifying behavior (Lach, et al., 2004). The following stages are the basis of the behavioral theory:

    • Pre-contemplation (not ready)
    • Contemplation (getting ready)
    • Preparation (ready)
    • Action
    • Maintenance

    Let’s take a quick look at how the stages can assist in making and keeping healthy New Year’s resolutions.


    If you are reading this but have not even considered changing a specific behavior and have no desire or plans to make resolutions this year, then “You Are Here!” Many individuals do not participate in resolutions, for whatever reason, and no change in behavior can be expected at this level. How does one move forward from this level to the next? Simply consider participating in the resolution ritual this year, and contemplate the possible positive impacts healthy behaviors could have on your life.


    The contemplation stage is where an individual may be weighing the pros and cons of making a behavior change. What positive health result could occur because of the new behavior(s)? Would it be worth the effort? Could this be an opportune time to make a change? Perhaps a poor health habit is standing in the way of better health? Individuals in this stage may be open to learning more information about the possible benefits of a healthier lifestyle (Lach, et al., 2004). If you find yourself in this stage and want to make some resolutions, then participate in the three “Rs”: Read, Research, and Reflect.


    Now we’re talking! Individuals in this stage are making New Year’s resolutions right now. This is the stage in which there is intention to take action in the near future (typically within 30 days). “These individuals have a plan of action, such as joining a health education class, consulting a counselor, talking to their physician, buying a self-help book, or relying on a self-change approach” (“The Transtheoretical Model”).  Go ahead, take the plunge, and write the goals out on paper. Take some time to reflect, then come back and edit the draft. Be sure to write them as SMART goals:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Realistic
    • Timely

    Click here to learn more about SMART goals. 

    Action and Maintenance

    Action and maintenance of set goals will take place after New Year’s but are key to keeping up with resolutions. When looking ahead, keep in mind the following tips for this stage:

    A setback doesn’t mean failure and is not a green light for quitting. “Giving up on your goals because of one setback is like slashing your other three tires after getting a flat” (Unknown). Expect setbacks, and plan for regrouping.

    Set process goals, not end goals. In other words, the goal “Take a 45-minute power walk 4 days a week” is more effective than “Lose 1-2 pounds a week” because the tangible healthy action of exercise is naturally related to the result.

    Manage time deliberately (Pomerenke, 2015).  Provide yourself a specific set time frame for accomplishing the process goals. Generally, people do not miss an appointment with a colleague, teacher, or doctor. Set appointments with yourself to participate in activities which contribute to behavior change—then stick to them!

    Set up an accountability system. In our technologically savvy times, there is little room for excuses with plenty of options to help stay accountable regarding new healthy habits. Post your intentions and accomplishments on social media, join challenges with your wearable technology apps, track your diet and exercise on a website, or simply find an accountability partner with similar goals.

    Could this be the year you make and keep healthy New Year’s resolutions? Whatever stage of change you are currently in, now is a good time to commit or recommit to a healthier you!

    Dr. Kerrie Berends is the Academic Department Chair for the Associate of Science in Health Science, Master of Science in Health Education, and Master of Public Health.


    Lach, H.W., Everard, K.M., Highstein, G., and Brownson, C.A. (2004). “Application of the Transtheoretical Model to Health Education for Older Adults.” Health Promotion Practice. 5(1), 88-93.

    “New Year’s resolution.” Cambridge Dictionaries Online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/new-year-s-resolution.

    Pomerenke, J. (January 26, 2015). “5 ways to keep your eyes on your goals.” Entrepreneur.  Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240411.

    “The Transtheoretical Model.”  Prochange Behavior Systems. Retrieved from http://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change. 

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