Working Through The Stages of Change

I’m not going to lie, making changes to your lifestyle, breaking unhealthy habits and creating new healthy habits isn’t an easy process and sometimes uncomfortable. I really admire people who have made drastic changes in their life to become healthier, I know how much persistence and determination it takes to achieve it.

Habits often become part of our everyday life and we start performing them subconsciously, like brushing your teeth before bed every night, you just do it out of habit, you don’t need a reminder to do it. Just like habits you already have, you can create healthy habits that have the same affect, it may take time for it to become ‘normal’ but with persistence, patience and support, it is achievable. If you’re already thinking you have unhealthy habits you want to break or new healthy habits you want to create, you’re taking a step in the right direction!

The decision to change your behaviour, whether it’s breaking an unhealthy habit or creating new healthy habits is a crucial step, it means you’ve moved out of the stage of denial and accepting that what you’re doing or what you’re not doing is having long term consequences on your health. Give yourself a pat on the back because you’re now working towards making those changes! Now’s a good time to begin asking yourself “What is stopping me from taking action?’ or ‘What are some things that could help me make this change?’. Working through these two questions will assist you in overcoming barriers or challenges you may experience throughout the process of change.

When making change, it’s a good idea to prepare yourself before taking action. Preparation will set you up for success and equip you with the knowledge and tools you need to overcome challenges. Some things you might consider in preparation may include:

  • Talking to someone who has successfully made the the same change in the past, what barriers did they need to overcome, what tips or tricks they used and how they best prepared themselves for the change.

  • Writing down a list of goals, what you want to achieve, how you want to feel and perhaps a reminder of how you feel right now.

  • Educate yourself in the areas you are wanting to make some changes in; if you want to eat more healthy foods, read up on how to make healthy diet changes. If you want to exercise more, start reading about different exercise programs and perhaps find one that will suit your needs.

  • Seek advice from a professional in the area; this may be a dietitian or personal trainer for the examples above.

  • Write down a list of challenges you expect you may have along the way and how you plan to overcome them.

Once you feel like you’re as prepared as you can be, it’s time to take action! Remember you don’t need to make drastic changes, it might be a couple of slight adjustments to start with, once you’ve successfully achieved one thing, move on to the next. Slowly and surely you will reach your ultimate goal. While taking action, remember to track your progress so you can see the positive results of your behavior change and stay motivated to keep on track, as well as rewarding yourself along the way. Setting milestones and rewards to reaching them can be a great incentive to stay on track!

It may be hard to believe right now, but you will eventually get to a point where your behavior change becomes an everyday habit and you don’t really have to put too much thought into it, it just comes naturally. When you are in the maintenance phase, it can really help to remove or avoid temptation. A good trick can be to replace the habits you want to change for healthier habits, for example, if you don’t want to have your usual after dinner sweet treat, take the dog for a 20 minute walk instead, you win and the dog wins!

With any change in your lifestyle, it’s inevitable that you will relapse. If you do, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead, accept it and move on. Just because you slipped up once, doesn’t mean you need to go completely back to your old lifestyle. Pin-point where you went wrong, prepare yourself to get back on track and learn from your previous mistakes.

Always remember to be kind to yourself, change is hard for everyone. It takes persistence, patience, mistakes and determination. If you want it bad enough, I know you can do it!

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