Making a Sustainable Lifestyle Change

The lifestyle we live is a result of our behaviour and the choices we make. In order to change a pattern of behaviour, we must first have motivation and the willingness to change. 

  • K- Knowledge 

One must first identify the unhealthy behavioural pattern in order to start considering a change.

  • M- Motivation

One must have the motivation to change this pattern.

  • S- Skills

One must require the skills to change the unhealthy pattern of behaviour, and maintain a healthy one. (Heisler, M. MD, MPA, & Resnicow, K. PhD. 2008). 

 

KNOWLEDGE

Knowledge requires the individual to identify areas of their lifestyle which need to be modified. Thinking about your current diet and exercise regime, consider asking yourself the following questions:

Food

-What does my current diet consist of?

-Am I missing meals?

-Do I make healthy choices?

-What can I change to improve my eating behaviour?

Exercise

-Am I doing 4 sweaty sessions per week?

-If not, how can I fit more into my lifestyle?

-Who could I exercise with to get me more motivated?

-Am I working at an appropriate intensity?

 

MOTIVATION

Motivation doesn’t really exist outside of action.  If you wait around to be motivated before you take action, you will never begin anything at all.  The word motivation comes from the Latin word meaning ‘movement’.  By taking action, we start the process and create our own motivation (Grant, A.M. &, Greene, J. (2001).

Motivation is brought about by the desire to change.  Any one person is motivated by different factors at different times and it's often easier to do nothing and stay within your comfort zone.

A way to break out of this comfort zone is to boost your self efficacy. Self efficacy is a person’s belief in their own ability to perform a task, as well as the ability to remove any negative self talk.

Motivation gets you started, habit keeps you going.

 

SKILLS

Goal Setting is a vital skill when trying to change a pattern of behaviour. Goals don’t create motivation, but they do give us a direction in which to travel (Grant, A.M. &, Greene, J. (2001). You must set both short term and long term goals. In order to achieve your long term goal, set a number of short term goals. Once it is achieved you can then re-evaluate it, and then set the next one. Goals should be revised regularly.

Most importantly, goals must be SMART.

S specific- vague goals lead to half hearted attempts.                                                                   M measurable- need to be able to evaluate progress.
A attractive- if we don’t want it we are likely to fail.
R realistic- we must be capable of achieving the goal.
T time frame- need to have an appropriate time frame in mind (Grant, A.M. &, Greene, J. (2001).

An example of a smart goal is: Eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day for 1 month.

Is it SMART?

S- specifically eat more fruit and vegetables; M- measured by serves eaten; A – cook meals to make vegetables more appealing and take fruit to work, R- shop at the fruit and veggie market on the weekend. T- one month.

 

STAGES OF BEHAVIOURAL CHANGE 

The stages of behavioural change is a necessary process which we must all progress through in order to achieve a behavioural modification (Prochaska, J.O., Velicer, W.F. (1997).

 

•Pre-contemplation: I haven’t been thinking about making changes in this area, I don’t intend to in the near future.

•Contemplation: I have thought about making changes in this area of my life, but haven’t actually done anything about it yet.

•Preparation: I am intending (or have just started in the past week) to make some changes in this area of my life.

•Action: I have been actively making real changes in this area of my life for at least the past month.

•Maintenance: I have been actively making successful changes in this area for about 6 months.   

Unfortunately it’s not always that simple, and we often “Relapse’ during this process. Relapse (going back to old habits) is a normal part of the change process, particularly from the preparation phase onwards. This is why self efficacy and goal setting are so important, because without it you cannot make a permanent behaviour modification. This is when you have achieved a new lifestyle change, and have no temptation to return to the old unhealthy behavioural pattern.                    

 

SUMMARY  

•KMS: You must identify the unhealthy pattern of behaviour, have the motivation and the desire to change, and have the necessary skills to change.

•Do things to bolster your self efficacy such as achieving your short term goals, and surrounding yourself with positive people.

•Goal setting is vital to the process. They need to be SMART, and reviewed regularly.

•Set several short term goals to reach your long term goal. This makes the final goal less daunting and makes it more achievable.

•Relapse is a normal part of the change process and we can use it to strengthen our determination.

 

 

References

Heisler, M. MD, MPA, & Resnicow, K. PhD. (2008). Helping patients make and sustain healthy changes: A brief introduction to motivational interviewing in clinical diabetes care. Clinical Diabetes, 26(4), 161-165

Grant, A.M. &, Greene, J. (2001). It’s your life, what are you going to do about it. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books Group.

Prochaska, J.O., Velicer, W.F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behaviour change. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12(1), 38–48.