The New Year is upon us. Have you thought about what your health goals will be for 2011? Did you make a New Year resolution in 2010 regarding your health? Were you successful in reaching your goal or did you give up too quickly? Why is it that our good intentions to adopt healthier habits seem hard to accomplish once the New Year (or other start time) arrives?
I’m sure I’ve made other New Year resolutions over the years but I only recall ONE. On January 1, 1980 I made the decision to quit smoking and I’m proud to say I never picked up another cigarette. I still recall the struggles I encountered as I was tempted many times to deviate from that decision. So why was I able to successfully kick the habit?
I’ve since learned that there are distinct stages a person goes through when they decide to change an unhealthy behavior. As it turns out, I went through all the stages, which helped me successfully accomplish my 1980 New Year’s resolution.
You begin by thinking about your problem and you’re now more aware of the personal consequences of your unhealthy habit. You’re able to consider making a change, but still ambivalent about it. What do you have to loose by giving up the unhealthy habit? What will you gain by adopting the new healthy habit?
Now you’ve made the commitment to make a change, “I’ve got to do something about this.” “This is serious!” “Something has to change.” “What can I do?” So you begin getting ready to change by gathering information, like reading books, talking with others who have gone before you, or finding out who and what’s available to help you in your attempt. You may even remove temptations. Many try and skip this stage, which is why they tend to fail at their attempt to change. To have success, you must understand and accept what it is going to take to make this permanent lifestyle change.
You’re now ready and actively involved in taking steps to change your unhealthy behavior by using a variety of techniques. You review your commitment to yourself and develop plans to deal with both internal and external pressures that may trigger a setback. You are open to receiving help and support from others, which is so important.
The actual process of maintaining the action (the healthy habit) is now underway and can last years to a lifetime. You must be able to successfully avoid temptations and stay on track. During this time, when you’re attempting to make a change, you may spiral back to a prior stage. You must realize that some people experience a brief setback (a lapse) and some completely fall back into the unhealthy habit (a relapse). It’s important to anticipate the situations in which a relapse could occur and take immediate action should you experience a lapse so you stay on track. This is just a normal part of making changes in your behavior.
If you should slip, like have a cigarette or binge by eating the whole pie instead of one piece, you shouldn’t see yourself as having failed. Instead, analyze how the slip occurred and use it as an opportunity to learn how to cope differently next time. These slips can provide opportunity for you to become stronger.
Eventually, if you maintain your healthy habit long enough, there will come a time when you are no longer tempted to take up the unhealthy habit. The new behavior has become a regular part of your life with little effort or thought.
Establishing healthier changes in our lives is rarely easy. As an individual, however, deciding to make changes is the easy part. Getting yourself (or your family) on board can be more difficult. Why is that? This is because change is an emotional process. We are all creatures of habit who usually resist it, and most welcome what’s comfortable and routine. The unknown can cause fear and worry!
The truth, of course, is that change can bring about pleasurable and rewarding results. When establishing better eating habits or being more physically active in order to have better health the result can be quite simply just feeling better, having more energy, getting sick less often, disappearing aches and pains, slowing down the aging process, looking better, living a more fulfilled life, the list is endless.
As a parent, wife, husband, mother, father, child, a major part of success will be your ability to inspire and encourage your family to get out of their routine, what’s comfortable to them; to assure them that even though they are on a new journey, it’s the right journey, for the right reasons. Acquiring and having good health should be high on everyone’s list of priorities, not only for you but for your family as well.
It comes down to a person’s beliefs. What you believe will determine what you do and the path you take (and perhaps that of your family). That direction or path you take will determine what you ultimately achieve. Will it be better health for you (and your family) in 2011 as a result of deciding to make the necessary changes and going through the distinct stages for a lasting change?
To your wellness,