Most of us think about our own health and wellbeing every day and quite often think about making a positive lifestyle change.
We think about doing some exercise, eating healthier foods, quitting smoking, losing some weight, getting to bed early, spending more time with our partner, or creating a healthier work life balance.
Change can be hard…
Changing our daily habits and routines however can be difficult. Most people when deciding to change, experience inner conflict between wanting to change and staying the same.
Making a change requires consistent effort and commitment. Whilst staying the same and not changing, is easy and comfortable. This is a very normal part of the behaviour change process…
How much do you want to change?
The most important part of any successful behaviour change is making the decision to do so, and then taking action. For some people however, their desire to change is quite low and as a result, there is little effort made.
When the desire to change is high, you’re more likely to put a greater amount of effort into achieving the change.
Is what you wish to change based on your values?
Another important component of behaviour change is to consider whether it is based on your values…
Values represent who we are, what we stand for and what is important in our life. Our values are at the core of our being, and can help us move forward in a positive way. By reflecting on whether our current behaviour reflects our values and what we stand for, this can help us make a decision as to how we wish to lead our lives now, and into the future.
If you value good health for example, what is it that you are doing or not doing that reflects good health? Are you eating well for example? Are you exercising on a regular basis? Are you smoking?
If you value relationships, how are you spending your time with loved ones? How much time are you spending at work after hours? Is your work impacting the quality of time that you spend with loved ones?
If you value a sense of adventure, how is this reflected in your behaviour?
Take action – set some S.M.A.R.T. goals
If you are clear on your values and what’s important to you, and would like to make a positive change, then take action today and set some S.M.A.R.T. goals.
S.M.A.R.T. goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and set within a suitable Time-frame.
Think about what you wish to achieve and when. Think about what small steps you can take today and every day to increase your exercise for example, to help you eat better, to help you stop smoking. Will you go for a 30 minute walk? Will you choose fruit over a chocolate bar? Will you start to cut down on your afternoon cigarettes? Think and record the action you plan to take.
Remember to set goals that are reasonable (i.e. they are not competing with current demands), attainable (start with small steps) and easy to measure (how will you know that you have achieved what you set out to?).
Take the first steps..
If you’re feeling unsure, start by taking some small steps. If a 30 minute walk overwhelms you for example, start with 10 or 15 minutes and build from there. If the thought of never having a cigarette again overcomes you, tell yourself that you are only quitting for one day or half a day, or for a few hours and build from there.
You may also wish to think back to a time where you did make some change. Maybe you had lost some weight, or quit smoking for a time, or went to the gym every second day. Think about that time and what helped you achieve.
Upon reflecting, you may remember that initially making and sustaining the change was difficult. Maybe you thought you couldn’t do it or succeed, but with perseverance and repetition, you were able to successfully change your behaviour.
Change is possible. It requires regular steps every day towards a larger goal, and this takes time.
Practice makes perfect!
Most people make numerous attempts to change. This is a normal part of the behaviour change process and doesn’t mean you have ‘failed’.
Whilst you may feel that returning to your former behaviour is not what you had hoped for, it is important to learn from the experience and start again. Think about what led you back, and what you could do differently next time.
If you’re feeling stuck, seek some support from your family and friends. You may even wish to exercise together with your partner, or one of your colleagues could be your quit smoking buddy. If you’re feeling stuck, don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
There are a number of professional services that can help – speak to your doctor for further information and support.
Remember that there are many people who successfully change their behaviour – with the right information and support, you can too.