Getting New Year’s Resolutions Back on Track

The following story was produced by the Columbia University Irving Medical Center newsroom and features Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center scientist and obesity expert Michael Rosenbaum, MD.

About 40 percent of Americans make New Year's resolutions—and although one study has shown that the success rate is higher than generally believed, a large portion fails to follow through. If you need a nudge to get your New Year's resolutions back on track or want to get started, researchers at CUIMC have some guidance: 

This Time, Keep Them

Setting goals is a great idea, says Philip Muskin, MD, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. As long as you do so in a way that makes success more likely.

"Every resolution needs to contain the methodology you will use to achieve it, e.g., portion control, reducing alcohol intake on a set schedule, or a specified amount of time spent exercising each week," Muskin wrote in a column for the CUIMC Newsroom. "Without a methodology to achieve the goal, it won’t happen."  

Treat Every Monday like it’s January 1

Instead of thinking of your resolution as one giant leap that starts on Jan. 1, break your goals into smaller steps that can be started every Monday. That's the advice of the public health advocates at the Monday Campaigns, an initiative supported by the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

“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,” says Gina Wingood, ScD, MPH, the Sidney and Helaine Lerner Professor of Public Health Promotion and Director of Columbia’s Lerner Center, in the Mailman School newsroom.

The Basic Formula for Weight Loss 

It sounds so simple. "The best way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you eat," says obesity expert Michael Rosenbaum, MD, professor of pediatrics and of medicine, in Columbia Magazine. "You can work both sides. You can eat less. You can exercise more. Hopefully, you’ll do both."

But losing weight, and keeping it off, is hard, because the more weight is lost, the more metabolism slows down. "At some point, your body is going to say “that’s enough” and you’re not going to lose more," Rosenbaum says.

Help is available at CUIMC: The Comprehensive Obesity and Metabolism Management and Treatment program offers meal plans, stress management and mindfulness therapy, the latest medications, and nonsurgical procedures or minimally invasive surgery. The Families Improving Health Together—FIT—program provides comprehensive care for obese children ages 2 to 9.

Mindfulness for Beginners

Mindfulness is a popular buzzword in wellness articles, but what does it mean? In "Mindfulness for Beginners," psychologist Ali Mattu, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, says "mindfulness is a skill that allows you to embrace the present moment."

"Most of the problems people have is when they avoid the present moment, avoid emotions, avoid thoughts," Mattu adds. "Mindfulness is one way to counteract all that. It doesn't necessarily make you feel better, but it does help you to feel more."

Smartphones and Sleep

The blue light emitted from smartphones can cause sleep problems, but many people can't stop using their devices before bedtime. Wearing amber glasses, Columbia researchers have found, may help. In a small study, they found that sleep duration and quality improved in people who wore the glasses for two hours before bedtime.

"Blue light does not only come from our phones," says Ari Shechter, PhD, assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. "It is emitted from televisions, computers, and, importantly, from many light bulbs and other LED light sources that are increasingly used in our homes because they are energy-efficient and cost-effective."

“The glasses approach allows us to filter out blue-wavelength light from all these sources, which might be particularly useful for individuals with sleep difficulties.”

The Link Between Hearing and Depression  

To improve your mental health in the coming years, it may help to get your hearing checked. A new study from Columbia otolaryngologists found that symptoms of depression were twice as common in individuals with mild hearing loss and four times as common in people with severe hearing loss than in people with normal hearing.

The study looked for an association at a single point in time, so it can’t prove that hearing loss causes depressive symptoms. “But it’s understandable how hearing loss could contribute to depressive symptoms," says the study's leader Justin Golub, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head & neck surgery. "People with hearing loss have trouble communicating and tend to become more socially isolated, and social isolation can lead to depression.”