New Year’s Resolution: Behavior Change Made Easy- this is how we succeed

A couple of days into the New Year. Many of us might have made a few New Year’s Resolutions and most are probably still filled with good intentions and motivation.

 

New Year – New You

 

We all know, based on previous experiences the first couple of days or weeks seem easy to stick with a desired behavior

but

sooner or later many of us slip back into old habits…..and since it happens so gradually only very few of us can pin point to when and how it happened.

But,

Behavior Change Can Be Easy & Sustainable

Since many of us forget what it takes to change behavior I have a few points or reminders for you.

We like the idea of living a bit healthier, making more balanced food choices, exercising more or being more positive

but

we fail to understand what it takes to implement a desired behavior.

An idea is just an idea.

A plan is just a plan. Doing something half-heartedly gets us nowhere.

 

A plan is good but a plan without actions and a plan without a back up plan is useless.

 

Thus, given that I am truly keen on supporting you in making successful, sustainable behavior changes and facilitating a healthy, balanced, active, and happy lifestyle I share some suggestions.

 

Let’s Change Our Behavior 

Now, I keep this post general (using two examples), given I don’t know your specific goals but I believe you can translate these tips into your situation, and if not, please reach out.

 

Before we get started, before you decide to change your behavior whatever your resolution or goal is for 2018 answer this first question:

 

WHY do you want to change your behavior?

 

No, your quick answer isn’t good enough.

It’s too superficial.

Think again.

Take a few moments to answer.

Why, truly, why do you want to change?!

 

Good, now please answer this one. Take your time. There is no rush, neither is there a right or wrong.

 

WHAT do you expect from the change?

 

Assume you reached your goal or implemented the desired change successfully, what will change – for you, your friends or family?

How will it make YOU feel or change YOUR life?

 

Okay, perhaps you have a better understanding now why you want to change. But please don’t forget that your change might also affect your relationships.

So let’s talk about how we change.

 

Step 1

Align your identity with your new behavior!

Yes, you read right. Align your identity.

 

Do you want to

quit smoking? —> identify as non-smoker

start exercising? —> identify as someone who enjoys exercise

reduce your alcohol intake? —> identify as someone who doesn’t need alcohol to relax or have fun

increase your intake of vegetables? —> identify as someone who is curious about food, enjoys trying different dishes and colorful produce

become less angry or negative? —> identify as somehow who looks at thinks from the bright side, who can see humor in a situation or who takes time to breath

 

—> What is YOUR new IDENTITY?

 

Step 2

Have a plan to change behavior.

 

You want to quit smoking: what will you do in case of cravings?

Will you distract yourself, choose substitute behavior (like bit on a piece of wood, chew a piece of gum or an ice cube) or….?

What will you do if your smoking friends ask you to go on a smoking break or join them for a night out after work (knowing they’ll smoke with their beer or wine).

How will you deal with moments of excess boredom or stress?

 

—> If you truly want to quit smoking you need to be aware of these situations. Think through them and develop plans how you’ll respond/react.

 

You want to exercise more? What will you do when you lack time or motivation?

Work, long hours at the office, deadlines,…..frequent reasons people miss workouts and surely reasons you’ll miss workouts.

What happens if you planned a workout but your friend asks you out for dinner or drinks?

Let’s assume you planned on engaging in 4 workouts this week, but had to stay late at the office or met your friends after work. It’s already Thursday and you feel drained and tired. You haven’t work out all week. How will you manage your weekly goal?

If you slack off this week, will you get back on track next week or will next week be just as crazy?

What options exist for you to engage in your desired level of exercise?

I love keeping things visual and generally have a calendar with check marks or smiley faces for accomplished tasks but also with reasons for missed opportunities. This way I can see visually, how much time I have left in a given week to meet my goals as well as the causes that prevented me from reaching my goal.

Let’s look at an example below:

clearly, this person would need to work out Saturday and Sunday to perhaps manage their goal of 4 workouts per week. If they are kind to themselves they might consider both mini stretching workouts as 1 workout, although stretching is an added bonus. Not really a workout….but giving a stressful week it has it’s place.

overtime = late nights at the office

(Btw, group workouts, in a small group, are a great way to exercise. You feel committed, the group counts on you plus it’s a social fun event. Win-win)

 

Thus, truly think about your desired behavior and the many challenged posed by life.

What would you like to change?

How would you like to change it?

 

The more detailed your plan the better the execution.

 

Step 3

Keep track of your behavior change successes and failures.

 

Keep track of the things that worked and the things that didn’t work.

 

Again, example smoking:

You gave in to your graving. Do you know why? What caused you to lite the cigarette? mental laps in willpower? social pressure? time & place, such as temptations over coffee with friends?

Can you avoid putting yourself in this situation, for now?

 

Or you managed all week without a cigarette. Great job! How do you feel? How did you deal and overcome craving? How did you feel turning down a cigarette from friends? What empowered you?

 

Example working out:

In spite of late nights at the office you managed your workouts twice in the mornings and once during lunch. Great job! Now, why were you able to work out in the morning. Could you manage it more regularly, especially during stressful periods filled with lots of overtime? How did you feel on days you worked out versus days you didn’t work out?

In spite of plan on working out, you wanted to spend time socializing with your friends, and dissed your workouts in favor of time with your friends. Now, how could you stay committed to your health goals? Can you combine these two things, exercise and socializing?

If we go back to the calendar example from above: clearly, had this person chosen a better breakfast and snack, they perhaps could have work out on Wednesday during lunch.

They also could have asked Kate to join them for a workout first, and then perhaps grabbed dinner together afterwards.

Bad weather isn’t truly an excuse unless it’s raining in buckets.

But, they should be happy as they at least took the time to stretch. It generally relieves stress and helps them feel more balanced, plus, their lunch workout on Thursday might really have energized them for the rest of the day.

Learning from success gives us real ammunition. When we succeed, we know what works. (more here)

 

Step 4

Track your behavior change progress and don’t fall back into old habits

 

On the subject of smoking:

how are you cravings? How are you dealing with stressful situations which you used to handle with a cigarette. Which behavior have you developed instead? Are you proud of your alternate behavioral choice?

Did you pick up eating candy instead? What about your weight? While quitting to smoke cigarettes is a huge perk for your health, starting an unhealthy diet or consuming excess sugar will contribute to illness and chronic, diet-related diseases.

 

On the subject of exercising:

How are your workouts? Have you changed your exercise routine or are you going to the same workout class engaging in the same exercises week in and week out? Have you missed workouts and gradually dropped your 4 days per week to barely one day per week?

Has your running routine turned into a walk?

Comfort is the enemy of achievement.

 

What Were Your Goals and

Why Did You Want To Change?

Does it Still Matter?

 

Verhaltensänderung FiEnergyIf you want to change but can’t successfully manage it yourself or want some input, then join us.

Informal Behavior Change Seminar

– let’s meet and talk and find a solution to your challenges!

When: Sunday, February 11 at 2:00 pm

Where: TBD (cafe close to center, 1010 Vienna)

RSVP: +43 (0)677- 625-45756 or here

 

You might find these articles very helpful:

Failure versus sustainable behavior change: tips for success

Successful behavior change: 1 trick to succeed

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  1. Pingback: Heart-Healthy Food: favorite food to prevent cardiovascular disease and keep my heart happy & healthy, Dr. Yvi Schroeder, CPT

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