How to Make Your Decade Happy and Healthy
Mara Ireta Gordon/Argosy

Happy New Year, Mounties! I hope you all had a wonderful and restful winter break and are feeling refreshed and ready to tackle whatever this semester throws at you.

Did you know that about 80 per cent of people lose their motivation by mid-February and fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions? The numbers are a little grim but I’d like to talk about how you can set goals that you can actually follow through on, in order to improve your life in any number of areas.

One of the most commonly used tools for goal-setting is the SMART acronym, which helps  ensure that your goals are clear and reachable. In order for a goal to be “SMART,” it must be Specific, Measurable/Meaningful, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic and Timely. To make your goal specific, answer the 5 Ws: What do you want to accomplish? Why is this goal important? Who is involved? Where is it located? Which resources will I need? Making your goal measurable will help you stay focused by allowing you to track your progress. Your goal also needs to be realistic and attainable, while still stretching your abilities and putting you out of your comfort zone. A relevant goal is one that matters, seems worthwhile and aligns with your other goals. Finally, give yourself a reasonable time limit within which you’d like to accomplish your goal.

University students face a unique range of challenges. One of the biggest is mental health, with the stress and anxiety of school often leading to poor mental health. A goal to help your mental health in 2020 may be to take a walk outside for 20 minutes every day or see a counsellor at the Wellness Centre at least once a month.

Students also face the challenge of getting enough sleep, with schoolwork, social activities or even Netflix frequently detracting from the suggested eight hours. A goal to improve the quality of your sleep may be to stay off your phone for an hour before bed (the blue light from the screen keeps the “awake” chemicals in your brain active) or finishing your homework right after class so you have time to relax later in the evening.

Students on campus also suffer from infectious disease, with inevitable exposure to colds, upper respiratory infections, influenza and sexually transmitted infections. You may set a goal to get your flu shot when it becomes available each year, use a condom every time you engage in sexual activity or get tested for STIs after each new partner.

Exercising more is probably the most common New Year’s resolution and it is certainly relevant to students who spend the majority of their day sitting in class or at a desk; adults should be active for at least 2.5 hours per week (about 20 minutes per day). A SMART goal for exercising more might be to make sure you’re going to the gym three times a week for an hour.

Finally, alcohol use is a common topic in the discussion of student health, and drinking less alcohol may be a reasonable goal for students who wish to reduce their intake.

Thanks for reading and I hope you make some goals to make your life as happy and healthy as it can be in 2020! Be sure to email wellness@mta.ca if you would like to book a massage, acupressure, counselling or other appointments as part of your self-care. Be sure to check out the January issue of Student Health 101 and the featured video produced by yours truly, also posted to IGTV on @mtahealthintern. As always, you can reach me at healthintern@mta.ca if you have any questions, concerns, comments or topics you’d like to see discussed in this co

Rachel McDougall
Rachel McDougall is a contributor to the Argosy.