I don't do New Years Resolutions. I just try to do the best I can year round. There are always parts of my life I'd like to improve upon, or things I'd love to learn. There are also things in my life that I'd like to change. Change is difficult - even good change! Giving up old habits or patterns of behavior that are no longer benefiting you can be hard to commit to and stick with. I'm stubborn as hell, and while that's not always a great thing my unwavering determination to get my way has led to some pretty amazing changes in my life. In the last few years I've been able to quit:
- Smoking: I smoked a pack a day (or more!) for about 8 years and quit 2 years ago
- Tanning: After my first job in a tanning salon at 19 I tanned 5-6 times a week for almost 10 years. Quit 3 years ago!
- Being Obese: My BMI was over 30 for a few years and I successfully lost (and kept off) 55 pounds for the last 4 years
- Eating Meat : I became a vegetarian almost 8 years ago out of respect for animals and my own health.
One of the most common questions I get is: How?!
I've discussed a little bit on finding the motivation to eat right and workout before. I gave a lecture on the topic of 'committing to a change' in my Drugs & Behavior that I thought would be beneficial to share here to help inspire others who are hoping to make a change in the coming weeks/year.
The Transtheoretical Model to Change is often used to describe the process addicts go in deciding to go to rehab. However, I ask my students to apply these stages to any change they are hoping to make in their life since this process can be applied to anything. Quitting smoking, eating right, exercising more - anything that you are currently unmotivated to actually commit to, but are entertaining the idea of trying. In counseling some addicts will undergo a type of therapy called Motivational Interviewing where a counselor basically helps them find motivation to propel them through the 5 stages of Change.
The 5 Stages of Change
- Pre-contemplation: Have zero desire to make a change and may not even be aware that you need to (in denial)
- Contemplation: You plan on making a healthy change in the next 6 months but are still kind of ambivalent about it so you don't really care to start.
- Preparation: Now your ready to make a change within the next 30 days. You start to take small steps like telling friends and family what your goals are. This is where most people gearing up for New Years Resolutions are.
- Action: It has been less than 6 months since you've made your change. Here you need to find ways to stay committed and watch out for relapses into your old ways!
- Maintenance: It has been over 6 months since you made your healthy change. Congratulations!.
How do you move from one step to the next? Wikipedia offered therapists 10 great strategies to help make and maintain the change:
- Consciousness-Raising—increasing awareness via information, education, and personal feedback about the healthy behavior.
- Dramatic Relief—feeling fear, anxiety, or worry because of the unhealthy behavior, or feeling inspiration and hope when they hear about how people are able to change to healthy behaviors
- Self-Reevaluation—realizing that the healthy behavior is an important part of who they are and want to be
- Environmental Reevaluation—realizing how their unhealthy behavior affects others and how they could have more positive effects by changing
- Social Liberation—realizing that society is more supportive of the healthy behavior
- Self-Liberation—believing in one’s ability to change and making commitments and recommitments to act on that belief
- Helping Relationships—finding people who are supportive of their change
- Counter-Conditioning—substituting healthy ways of acting and thinking for unhealthy ways
- Reinforcement Management—increasing the rewards that come from positive behavior and reducing those that come from negative behavior
- Stimulus Control—using reminders and cues that encourage healthy behavior as substitutes for those that encourage the unhealthy behavior.
Need even more inspiration? Rock out to some classic M.J.! Seriously. Blast this shit and commit to yourself.
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What change are you trying to make?
What was the last big change that you made?