It's that time of year. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 120 million Americans will make New Year's resolutions, with health-related goals like quitting smoking topping the list. Unfortunately, most of those quitters will be puffing away by Groundhog Day.
Instead of encouraging smokers to plan one quit attempt around New Year's, which comes only once a year, experts believe a better strategy would be to follow a New Year's quit with a weekly recommitment to quit that takes advantage of natural weekly cycles.
In a 2013 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers from San Diego State University, the Santa Fe Institute, The Monday Campaigns and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health monitored global Google search query logs from 2008 to 2012 in English, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish for searches related to quitting, such as "help quit smoking," to examine weekly patterns in smoking cessation contemplations for the first time. The study found that people search about quitting smoking more often early in the week, with the highest query volumes on Mondays. This pattern was consistent across all six languages, suggesting a global predisposition to thinking about quitting smoking early in the week, particularly on Mondays.
"On New Year's Day, interest in smoking cessation doubles," said the study's lead author, John Ayers of San Diego State University. "But New Year's happens one day a year. Here we're seeing a spike that happens once a week."
Besides catching smokers' attention on Mondays, weekly cues can help people stay on track with their quit attempts. Since it takes an average of seven to 10 quit attempts to succeed, encouraging people to requit or recommit to their quit attempt once a week can reduce the overall time it takes to quit for good.
Joanna Cohen, a co-author of the Google study and director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Institute for Global Tobacco Control, believes "campaigns for people to quit may benefit from shifting to weekly cues to increase the number of quit attempts participants make each year." In other words, quitters can use Monday as a weekly re-set to make another quit attempt if they slip up.
Another advantage to Monday cues is that they tap into what the scientists describe as a collective mindset around quitting. Morgan Johnson, director of programs and research at the Monday Campaigns and another co-author of the Google paper, said that the surge in quitting contemplations on Monday can be used to provide social support for quitters, an important factor in long-term success. "People around the world are starting the week with intentions to quit smoking -- if we can connect those people at school, work and communities we can make a regular 'Monday Quit' the cultural norm."
To learn more about the Quit and Stay Quit Monday initiative and receive weekly tips on sticking to your quits, visit www.mondaycampaigns.org. And to help you plan a resolution to quit that will last well past Groundhog Day, here are five tips that leverage the power of Monday to quit for good:
1. Find a Monday Quit Buddy: At the beginning of each week, seek encouragement from fellow quitters, family, coworkers, or an organized support group -- whatever works for you. Take the time to collectively celebrate a smokefree week or encourage each other to quit again if you've relapsed. Don't forget to discuss common triggers, like hectic schedules and holiday parties. Fostering a system of support provides the motivation you need to stick to your plan and quit for good.
2. Do a Monday Check-in: Planning is critical to success. Take a few minutes every Monday to assess the progress you made over the previous week and make a plan for the upcoming week. Write down any cravings you had and how you overcame them, and record any upcoming triggers you may face in the current week.
3. Recommit to Quit Each Monday: To keep your quit going for the long haul, take a moment each Monday to recommit to your decision to quit. Each week, pledge to be smokefree, and remind yourself of the reasons you quit in the first place.
4. Reward Yourself on Monday: It's no small thing to remain smokefree for a whole week. If you make it through the week without lighting up, use the money you may have saved on buying cigarettes to treat yourself to a movie, go out to dinner, or whatever reward you think will keep you motivated to stay quit for good. You can even start a "ciggy bank" to collect the money you've saved that you will use for your rewards.
5. If at first you don't succeed, quit quit again on Monday
Quitting is tough. The most important thing to remember is to not let a relapse become the reason your resolution fails. Regardless of how poorly you stuck to your quit last week, you can still determine the success of your current week -- that's the beauty of a regular check-in. Allowing yourself to try again every Monday provides a renewable opportunity to quit for good.
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