When starting any change to your lifestyle it is ideal if you first identify what keeps you motivated. Each person has a different motivation for wanting to modify behaviours, and recognising what these reasons are will help to keep you focussed, especially when you face barriers or begin to feel resistant to change.
Understand your Motivation
Understanding what keeps you motivated will help you to stay focussed. Some people can be motivated by rewards and others are motivated by recognition from others. If rewards are something that motivates you make sure you treat yourself after every achievement. Keep in mind that rewards should be non-food based in order to avoid emotional eating. If recognition from others is your primary motivator then join a network where constant support will be available. Be careful, however, that you are not motivated to alter your behaviours in order to please someone else. Positively transforming your lifestyle should be about you and your health and not to appease someone else’s wishes or desires.
What Is Holding You Back?
We all have reasons for why we may not have altered our behaviours already. We may have all the intention in the world to change, but if there are obstacles preventing us then these need to be dealt with first before we can break free of negative habits. Some common obstacles include:
- Lack of time
- Lack of resources
- Lack of support
- Too busy at work
- Too many responsibilities
- Too tired or in too much pain
- Not knowing where to start
- Negative thinking
Identifying obstacles and then working to overcome them is a necessary step. There may be times where our responsibilities at work or home override our own needs. This is okay for a short period of time, but if we continue putting others first we will feel frustrated, resentful, worn out and eventually sick.
Recognise Your Strengths
The next part of putting into practice positive healthy habits and overcoming barriers to change is to draw on your strengths. I meet so many patients, particularly women, who downplay their strengths and therefore feel powerless to make a start. Consider answering the following questions as a way to empower you to move forward in being able to make positive changes.
My strengths and what I have going for me include: (e.g. my ability to be organised and think rationally or my physical stamina). Consider how your strengths have assisted you in succeeding in an area of your life that required effort. (e.g. my ability to be organised means that I run a busy household whilst still holding down a part-time job; or, my physical stamina has helped me to keep going with long hours at work in order to meet a deadline).
How could these same strengths be harnessed and used in order to make positive changes to your health? (e.g. I can use my ability to be organised by working out a schedule that incorporates exercise and healthy meal planning; or, my physical stamina means that I can plan to exercise at the end of my day because I know I will still have enough energy).
Prepare for Resistance
Any positive changes that we want to make in our lives will be met with resistance, so being prepared for this can help to keep you focussed. This resistance might be from external sources; for example, from friends who do not understand why you want to make healthy changes. This type of resistance is often a reflection of their own insecurities and guilt for not prioritising their own health.
The second type of resistance can come from ourselves in the form of excuses and self-sabotage. Making excuses is common and can be a normal part of change. Make a list ahead of time of the excuses you are likely to use and come up with a list of reasons why those excuses will not hold. For example, an excuse might be that you cannotexercise because it is raining. An easy rebuttal to this excuse would be to have recorded or saved to your YouTube favourites an indoor Pilates routine.
Self-sabotage, on the other hand, tends to be more subconscious and can be related to feelings of low self-worth and value. If you find you always give up just when you are doing so well then this might be self-sabotage at work. If recognition of and steps to make adjustments to this behaviour do not work, then talking to a trained counsellor, psychologist, and/or hypnotherapist might be necessary.