Keys to Successfully Changing a Habit

  http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-healthy-happy-runner-city-running-sunset-image20932400 Most of us have changes that we would like to make in our lives. Maybe you want to switch to healthier food choices, lose a few pounds, or make more time for the things that you love. If you are like most people, you have probably tried to change a few of your own habits only to realize that changing isn’t as easy as you thought. In fact, more factors are involved in making an effective change than you may be aware of. If you have been unsuccessful in the past with this, you may have been missing out on one or more important pieces of the process. In this post, we’ll take a look at three important parts of making a habit change-successfully!
  1. Acknowledge Where You Are in the Stages of Change
Stage 1- Pre-Contemplation (or “Denial”) In this stage you are not yet aware that there is a problem or a better way that you could be doing something. It can be easier for friends and loved ones to recognize that you have a problem. Maybe you are eating far more sweets than you think you are and can’t understand why your weight isn’t going in the direction that you’d hoped. If someone you love seems to be in this stage, it can be hard to reach them. One of the best things you can do here is encourage them to self-reflect. Stage 2-Contemplation Here you have become aware that there is something that you would like to change and you begin to consider doing something about it. You start to weight the pros and cons of taking action. This stage can last days, weeks, months, or even forever for some people. One key to breaking out of this stage is to focus on the positive consequences of making a shift. Stage 3- Preparation In this stage you know that you have a problem and are motivated to do something about it. The thought of not making the change has become unbearable. Here it can be helpful to write down your goals, devise a plan of action, and collect information. Reach out to others to learn how to get where you want to go. Stage 4- Action! This is where the rubber hits the road and you take direct action. In this stage it is so important to acknowledge and reward your successes in a healthy way. Reach out for social support for encouragement and accountability. Feed yourself motivating statements regularly. Stage 5- Maintenance Maybe now you’ve lost the weight or started eating the way you’d always wanted to. You are continuing with your new behaviour. The key here is to be aware of temptation and have strategies prepared ahead of time for coping with it. Here again it is so important to acknowledge and reward your successes! Stage 6- Relapse This is probably not what you were hoping to see on this list, but it is quite normal for people to relapse as part of the process of making a change.  Relapse is not a sign to give up, but rather a normal part of the process. You may feel angry, frustrated, or disappointed and that is okay, just try not to be too hard on yourself. The key here is to identify triggers that may derail you. Recognize barriers to staying on track and take steps to overcome them. Reaffirm your goals and your commitment to your change.    2.  The Three Necessary Elements  There are three crucial things that you need to implement a successful behaviour shift:    1.Desire- You want to do it, you are willing to put in the effort, and you are ready to make your goal a priority 2.Knowledge- You know what, when, where, why, and how to do what you need to do. A good example here might be the goal of eating a healthier diet. Different people define “healthy eating” in vastly different ways. Do you know what that      looks like for you? Do you know how much you need to be eating? How often?    3. Skills- Do you have the necessary skills to make your desired lifestyle change? If your goal is to get to the gym more often, do you know what to do when you get there? Do you know how to put together a balanced meal plan that will allow you to achieve your healthy eating goals? Awareness again is key here. If you discover that you don’t have one of the necessary ingredients noted above, take action to fill that gap. If you notice that you don’t really have that burning desire yet to make the change that you tell yourself that you “should” be making, just sit with that awareness for now. Being honest with yourself can help you to avoid feeling like a failure when you are just not quite “there” yet. If it is knowledge or skills that you are lacking, reach out for support. There is a lot of information out there. 3.  Making the difference- Strategies for Success
  1. Have a concrete goal.   You’ve probably heard by now of SMART goals. It is important to clearly define what it is that you are trying to accomplish so that you know when you have achieved it. Make sure your goal is:
S- Specific M-Measureable A-Attainable R- Realistic T-Timely, make sure you set a reasonable timeline for implementing your new behaviour. 2. Make it Interesting!        No matter what your goal is, try to make it fun! Again I’ll use the common example of changing eating habits. Perhaps you could gather some tasty new recipes that you will look forward to.      3. Add Before You Subtract        Continuing with our healthy eating example, try adding in healthy new foods before eliminating the ones that aren’t working for you. Try some making those new recipes and experiment with different seasonal fruits and veggies.      4. Be Aware of Barriers Take a good hard look at anything that might be preventing you from making a change. I often find journaling to be really effective for boosting my own self-awareness around different areas of my life. Again, it’s really important to be honest       with yourself here. What are you getting out of keeping things the same?      5. Discover What Motivates You Motivation is far too large of a subject to really get into here, but it is something worth taking into account. What gets you going? Achievement? Social rewards? Competition?       6. Get Inspired! You can do it! Seek out stories of success and enlist a friend in your quest to move forward. Surround yourself with positive images and inspirational quotes.   Being effective in making a change requires a bit of homework, preparation, and requires you to be very honest with yourself before you begin. Knowing the necessary ingredients for making an effective shift in your life will give you the tools you need to reach your goals. You can do it, and now you know how! Please feel free to contact me if you have are looking for information or support on making a change. If I don’t have the answer, I will be more than happy to help point you in the right direction! What are your thoughts on making a change? Are you thinking of making some sort of shift in your life?              

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