Most of us know what we could do to improve our health but find it hard to start or make changes that last.
You know the list: eat better, exercise more, drink less alcohol, stop smoking or any of the other positive lifestyle changes you, your spouse or your Doctor have been telling you to make. We value good health, but making lifestyle changes can be tough.
Change is hard. We all form unhealthy habits and it takes significant re-thinking and planning to change habits that are interconnected with our lifestyle. Education and will-power are important but they aren’t enough to guarantee lasting behaviour change. Here’s where psychology can help.
Change is a process. Making a decision to change your lifestyle is the first step. Understanding that change is a process that happens over a period of time and requires planning, support and maintenance strategies, is crucial for success. Careful planning means setting small goals and taking things one step at a time. Here are six tips to help make lifestyle changes that last.
Know your why. Be very clear about your motivations to change and how your life will be better once you do.
Make a plan. Your plan will guide you on the road to change. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail what, when, where and how you will exercise. Write everything down and ask yourself if these activities and goals are realistic for you.
Start small. After you’ve identified realistic short- and long-term goals, break them down into even smaller, bite-sized steps. Is your long-term goal to lose 5kgs over five months? A good daily goal might be to replace dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt.
One change at a time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. Instead, focus on one goal at a time. As new, healthy behaviours become habit, begin to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.
Get social. Having someone on your side will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it is someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Having someone to share your struggles and successes is important.
Ask for help. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider help from a psychologist. A clinical psychologist has specialist training to understand the connection between the mind and body, as well as the factors that promote behavior change. Asking for help doesn’t mean a lifetime of therapy; even just one or two sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.
Making changes takes time and commitment. Just remember that no one is perfect. Change is hard for everyone. We all have occasional lapses. Be kind to yourself. When you eat a muffin or skip the gym, don’t give up. Setbacks on the road to your goals are normal and you can get back on track. What one thing are you willing to give up or start doing to help you live your #BestLife?