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SAN DIEGO — According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, 120 million Americans will make New Year’s resolutions, with such health-related goals as 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 Friday 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,” wrote 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 re-quit 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.”