When embarking on any change in your lifestyle it is helpful if you first identify what keeps you motivated. Everyone has different motivators for wanting to modify behaviours, and recognising what your reasons are will help to keep you focussed, especially when you face barriers or begin to feel resistant to change. The first part of this self-analysis process starts with defining what health means to you.
What is Your Definition of Health?
No two people view health the same way. For some health might mean being free of aches and pains so that they can enjoy life to the full, for others it is about having enough energy to get through the day, and for others still it is about not dying young from something preventable. It is often useful to write your definition of health down and remember this when you are faced with having to make a decision about your behaviours.
Perhaps try finishing this sentence: ‘Good health to me means …’ (e.g. …that I feel fit and am able to play with my children without feeling discomfort or pain).
Be careful not to write down specific weight goals as weight in itself does not determine good health (it’s possible to be be healthy at any size).
Strengthen Your ‘Why?’
Once you have defined what good health means to you the next step is to strengthen your reasons for wanting to be healthy. These reasons will serve as powerful motivators for keeping you focussed. The stronger your ‘why’ the stronger your resolve to stay the course to living a healthier lifestyle. Examples of what might constitute your top five reasons for why you wish to live a healthier lifestyle may include:
- To improve your energy levels so that you can fully enjoy travelling with your partner
- To improve your sex life
- To be able to enjoy exercise without experiencing pain
- To feel vital and youthful
- To be a positive role model to your children
Consider that there have been reasons why you have continued with your current pattern of negative or not-so-beneficial health behaviours. In order to motivate you to shift what you are doing, your reasons for wanting to change needs to be greater than your reasons to stay the same.
Along with defining your health and strengthening your underlying reasons for wanting to change it is also important to identify if you are truly ready for change.
Are you Really Ready?
Modifying any aspect of our health involves transitioning through what behavioural psychologists believe is six stages of change.
The first stage of change is where we pre-contemplate wanting to alter our behaviour. We may have thought about making some modifications to our lifestyle but have not made any specific plans to do so. It may not be the best time to change due to too many other distractions or disruptions in our life at that moment. If this is the case consider waiting until the dust settles a little and then re-evaluate if you are ready. The next stage is where we have contemplated changing a little more seriously and may have started to gather information about what to do. This can often lead to determining that we want to change and being prepared to go for it.
Following from this is deciding to take action and making specific plans and putting this into place. Along the way, once we have put in place some specific measures we may find that we relapse back into our old behaviours. This is a normal part of the process and not to be considered a failure. Once we have established some new behaviours in place of old behaviours we have reached the maintenance stage of change, where these behaviours start to become
our new normal.