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Making Healthy Lifestyle Changes Eas(ier)

Change can be difficult to adjust to when it is forced upon us from outside.  But what about changes that we what to bring about from within us?  Changing your own status quo and altering the tides of inertia can be difficult, whether you are wanting to change the amount that you exercise, the food that you eat, or the amount you drink or smoke.  Habits are engrained in us, literally, with strong connections between neurons in our brains that form circuits based on our behaviors that are reinforced each time that behavior is repeated.  Here are some concepts from Motivational Interviewing to consider if you are having trouble changing a difficult behavior in order to move your life in a healthy direction.

Resolving Ambivalence. Make a pro and con list of the good and bad aspects of the behavior you want to change.  For example, if you are looking to eat more vegetables, some of the pros of making the change include that it may lead to improved health, weight loss and increased energy.  Then you might list cons such as increased cost of fresh produce, increased preparation time and decreased sense of satisfaction from the flavor. This exercise will help you gain clarity regarding any roadblocks to making the change as well as clarity around the values that are motivating you.

Visualize or draw. What would your life look like in 5 or 10 years if you did not make this change? What would your life look like in 5 or 10 years if you do make this change?

Rate yourself weekly. Rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how important it is for you to make these changes then ask yourself what would need to change in your life for the importance to be a 10.  Then rate on a scale of 1 to 10 how confident you are in your ability to make the change and ask what would need to change to make your confidence a 10. 

Identify roadblocks. What are some things that could interfere with your plan?  Think about times you have tried to make these changes earlier in the past and what was the Achilles heel that foiled your plan.  Knowing your triggers for relapse can help you plan in advance and not be unknowingly thrown off course.

Identify supports. What kind of help will you need to be successful?  Perhaps there are financial limitations holding you back; think about who might want to invest in the self-improvements you are trying to make.  Who can you recruit to play a role in offering that support?  Do you need a workout buddy to give you a wakeup call every morning?

Celebrate small steps.  How do you know your plan is working?  What little changes have you already made that are making a difference?  Have you noticed you are only buying a pack of cigarettes per week versus every other day?  Decide on rewards you will allow yourself for small successes to keep you motivated to persevere towards the big prize.

Making big changes in life, especially in long-held lifestyle habits, can seem overwhelming.  Taking time to think through all aspects and re-evaluate your plan regularly will help keep you on track.

Contact a qualified mental health provider today.