One aspect of health and wellness that causes me pain deep down is how some people go about changing a behavior. Whether that be improving your exercise habits, nutrition habits, or lifestyle habits there are many mistakes I see people make when it comes to making these changes. There are also many professionals that also make mistakes as well.
This basic guide to behavior change puts everything into an understandable perspective and gives you a roadmap on how to go about changing a behavior.
To define what I mean about behavior change, I am referring to making a change to a habit, whether it be removing a habit or adding a habit. Such as adding the habit of regular exercise or removing the habit of overeating. The word “habit” and “behavior” are fairly synonymous and can refer to just about anything.
Make Sure you are Ready to Change
The very first thing I ask about when I work with clients or even myself is if I want to discover if they are ready to make a change yet. If they are content with their current nutritional habits, they do not want to change, or they are not ready, it is not quite my place to push them into changing if they are unwilling to change.
I will, however, lay out the benefits and maybe stepping stones to convince them. But simply put, don’t push for change if someone, or yourself, isn’t ready! It also might be more beneficial to start off with behaviors they are ready to change, so they aren’t managing to change several behaviors at once.
Committed vs. Commanded
This ties in with the previous section. The power of choice is a huge motivator for some. When you force or command yourself to change, it is hard to stay motivated to pursue change. When you are committed, change becomes much easier. The main emphasis here is don’t force yourself or others into making change. Even if you have their best interests in mind, it may result in them completely abandoning the habit and possibly resenting it if they fail.
Slow Change is Long Lasting Change
Something I tell all of my clients and the people I work with is
“Slow change is long-lasting change, fast change will change back fast”
So what I mean here is you shouldn’t aim to completely change behavior overnight. Or even over a few weeks. Shoot for sustainability. I have overheard many coaches and individuals discuss making large leaps in their nutritional habits within a few weeks or less.
When thinking about changing a behavior, take on the mindset that you want to provide yourself space to make mistakes and learn from your mistakes. Having comfort in taking small steps at a time without feeling rushed. And being able to ensure the few steps you take will last.
For example, most, if not all, of my clients work on improving their nutritional habits. What I like to do with them for maybe the first month is ask them to simply try out healthy foods they like. I do not place any strict guidelines on asking them to eat 3 healthy meals 7 times weekly this week. I look to give them space and comfort to try new things.
Also, when starting to work with some individuals, they may not know of many healthy food options and may feel panicked.
Seek to understand yourself and understand the behavior
If you want to exercise more, eat better, or stay physically active. First, understand yourself. What kind of exercise do you like, and what foods do you eat, in your daily schedule, where can you find time to implement healthy behaviors (such as taking walks).
Take maybe a few weeks or a month to better learn about yourself. Try new things, and point out times in your schedule when you can implement healthy behaviors. Exploring and understanding yourself isn’t very stressful and motivates you to pursue change.
Also, begin to understand the behavior you are changing. If it is exercise, consult a professional or resources on how to exercise and program properly. Make sure you have a detailed roadmap on how to enact change!
Share ideas and changes with Friends and Family!
Sharing your changes and ideas may result in helpful feedback, tips, or positive reinforcement. Also, being able to share success stories and failures will help in keeping motivated and encouraged. Ask others about the changes they may be making. You can always learn something from others and be supportive simultaneously!
Don’t strive for perfection. Stay Human! Enjoy your Life!
I have encountered many who view their less desirable habits (drinking, snacking, eating out, being lazy, etc.) as habits that need to be changed. As long as they aren’t destroying all progress you are making, don’t worry about them until you really want to change them.
I have worked with many who told me they have a terrible sleep schedule, or they love to go out drinking some weekends, or they love having just a lazy day every once in a while. I then asked how they would feel if they had to have a perfect sleep schedule, could not go out drinking, or had a lazy day. They said they would feel pretty miserable because it may be something they have always done, their social life is very important, or lazy days help recharge.
I then asked if they think it is hindering potential progress. If not, hold onto that less desirable habit until you want to change. Then let’s re-evaluate it. My clients expressed gratitude they did not feel forced or pressured to change anything. It made them feel listened to and not judged.
Someone effective in behavior change can make due with someone’s current lifestyle and add positive behaviors rather than subtracting behaviors in an attempt to make them a perfect human being. Everyone’s ideal lifestyle looks different.
The main point here is don’t feel like you need to subtract behaviors that provide you some sort of solace and will turn your life upside down. You aren’t perfect if you have a perfect lifestyle you hate. You are perfect if you can make healthy progress with a lifestyle you fully enjoy.
Don’t make a change unless you feel ready and willing.
I hope this helps. Email me for more information or assistance, and check out my Trainerize Page!