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What is the process for changing behavior?

First step is knowing a behavior needs to be changed.  After that, surround yourself with people and an environment that supports that change you want to make.  If you are a smoker and continue to surround yourself with people that smoke, chances are high that you will start again.  It can take up to 6 months for the new behavior to become habit.  Once it becomes habit, it will just be a part of your life without thinking about it.
Once we become aware of a behaviors...patterns...habits which are unhealthy, we can begin to replace them one by one with positive, healthy ones.  If our pattern is to spend 3 hours watching TV at night, we can replace some TV time with exercise and meal planning for the following day for example.  If our current behavior is to reach for an unhealthy snack in the afternoon, we can replace that behavior with a cup of green tea as another example. I find having something to "replace" the behavior with is much more successful than simply saying "I'm going to try not to do that."
Darren Treasure, PhD
Sports Medicine

Prochaska and DiClemente* have developed a simple way to determine your current stage of behavioral change. The first step in this process is to classify who is a maintainer in terms of physical activity. To do this, determine whether you are currently engaging in at least 150 minutes a week or moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). Then respond to the following four simple statements to assess your current stage of behavioral change:

  1. I became physically active at the recommended levels more than six months ago.
  2. I have taken action to become physically active at the recommended levels within the past six months.
  3. I am intending to take action in the next month.
  4. I am intending to take action in the next six months.

If you responded no to all statements, you are in the pre-contemplation stage. Contemplators will have answered yes to statement four and no to all others. Those in the preparation stage will have answered yes to statements 3 and 4, and no to the others. If you answered yes to statement 2 and no to statement 1, you are in the action stage. You are in the maintenance stage when you can answer yes truthfully to statement 1. 

Now that we have established your current stage of change, it's time to identify strategies that will help you progress from stage to stage.

*Over the past 20 years James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente have developed the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM)

Behavior modification starts with the awareness of a behavior that is either negative or is something that needs improvement. The awareness can come from within or it can come from another person. With awareness the choice can be made to keep the behavior as is or make a change. That change is behavior modification. Change is this area generally happens slowly. It may start through education, talking to family and friends, visiting a gym or by trying something that is not too taxing or exhausting, for example walking.

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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.