It’s nothing new that habits are hard to break. One of the biggest obstacles we face when setting a new goal for ourselves is changing our behavior. We must replace old habits with new and find other ways to do things to succeed. The good news is that it’s possible. The bad news is that it’s not easy.
There are five stages of behavior change according to the transtheoretical model. Precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. To briefly explain, these stages relate to first being unaware of the problem at hand then having a realization that change should occur, preparing for that change, and then taking action. The last stage is when you’ve created the habit and are able to maintain this new behavior.
Once you’ve decided that you want to make a change it takes a little planning. The key to creating sustainable habits is to make small changes over time. Being consistent with small changes and being patient about the process will put you on the road to success. If you try to go all in, while the enthusiasm is great, the likelihood of relapsing to old ways is very high. Certain behaviors are going to be easier to adopt, but it can take up to two months for some to adhere to new habits. In the event that you do have a slight or complete relapse, don’t let it discourage you. Get back up, dust yourself off, and try again. Life is full of failure on the road to success.
An important component to sustaining change is finding a good support system for yourself. It may be friends, family, or even an online community. A support system will help your journey. They will provide encouragement when you’re not feeling great. They will support your efforts with diet changes or workouts. They will help you to maintain accountability.
Another excellent way to nudge ourselves onto the desired path is to try incorporating some stimulus control. You can tweak things in your lifestyle that will provide a greater chance for the desired behavior to take place. Pack your gym bag the night before so it’s all ready to go in the morning. Replace soda with flavored seltzer or something similar. Take the time to log your foods and identify trigger foods then keep them out of the house. Whatever your goals or desired change may be, little things like these can create a greater momentum towards a successful journey.
The most important thing you can do for yourself is find enjoyment in your new ways! Find a workout that you really love. It could be group fitness classes or just going to the gym to lift some weights by yourself (preferably under the direction of a trainer). If you like to dance, take a dance class. If you like to play sports, join an adult sports league. Explore new recipes to find healthy meals you enjoy and find alternative ways to prepare the foods that you love. Make new friends that have similar goals to support each other in creating new habits. When you find the joy in your new ways adherence will be greater.
If you want this, you will make time for this. You will put the effort in. It is a slow process to create sustainable behavior change. It will take a little dedication and effort, but I believe you have the power to achieve your goals!
Be strong. Stay strong.