How can increased awareness help me change my behavior?

Darren Treasure, PhD
Sports Medicine

People who have been largely sedentary and unhealthy don’t all of a sudden wake-up one morning and in one step are physically active and healthy. There is a process of change that takes place before anyone can be defined as, for example, physically active, a non-smoker, or a non-drinker.

Anyone starting down the road of change needs to have an understanding of the change process and recognize that different challenges are likely to arise at each step in the process and that each of us will progress through the different stages of change at our own rate.

Over the past 20 years James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente have developed the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM) and have identified five well-defined stages of change:

Pre-contemplation – Individuals have no intention of changing behavior, typically deny having a problem.

Contemplation – Individuals acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it; however they struggle to understand their problem, to see its causes, and see possible solutions. They intend to change their behavior within the next 6 months.

Preparation – Individuals in this stage are planning to take action within the very next 30 days, and are making the final adjustments before they begin to change their behavior.

Action – Individuals modify their behavior and their surroundings. For example, they start to be physically active, stop smoking, remove desserts from the house, and pour the last beer down the drain.

Maintenance – You have achieved behavioral change but this must last for at least 6 months. There are always challenges and the possibility of relapse will depend on the individual. This stage may last as short as 6 months for some and a life-time for others, i.e., alcoholic.

If you are starting on your journey to being the best you can be-to being physically active and mentally fit-you will pass through the stages of change described above. It is really important to understand that reaching the maintenance stage rarely occurs the first time and relapse to other stages should be expected.

Remember, becoming physically active and mentally fit is a journey and not a destination and that your success will be determined by your passion and commitment to overcome all barriers more than anything else.

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

The brain pays attention to only a small portion of the information it's receiving at any one time. It does this through the reticular activating system (RAS), a network of nerve cells that controls consciousness and selective attention to information. The RAS is inactive, for example, when a person is sleeping or under general anesthesia. The frontal cortex still activates in response to incoming information, but the brain neither processes the information nor remembers it. If the RAS is turned on, it will be conscious of incoming information.

Creating an increased awareness about a particular behavior can make all the difference when it comes to changing that behavior.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.