Six stages of changeMaking changes to our lifestyle is very difficult. It can be challenging and frustrating to break the habits of many years.
By: By Crystal Hoepner, Public health, Alexandria Echo Press
Making changes to our lifestyle is very difficult. It can be challenging and frustrating to break the habits of many years. Understanding how we make behavioral changes is the key to helping us modify our lifestyle in healthy ways.
After alcoholism killed James Prochaska's father, he was determined to find a way to help people break their bad habits. A psychologist at the University of Rhode Island and author of Changing for Good, Prochaska searched to find everyday people who had ditched bad habits (like smoking and overeating) on their own.
After years of studying these self-changers, Prochaska detected a pattern. No matter what habit they'd broken, they had all gone through the same six stages. Commonly known as the "stages of change,” Prochaska published this approach to behavior change that is simple but powerful.
Use the “stages of change” model with your next behavior modification. As you go, you may fall back a stage or two, but get back on track. Prochaska suggests, "The only mistake you can make is to give up on yourself."
Stage 1: Precontemplation. This is the period before you believe that a change is necessary. You know that a lifestyle change would be good, but you aren't quite convinced the benefits outweigh the trouble of getting started.
Strategy: Brainstorm. Start educating yourself about the desired lifestyle change and list your reasons for making the change.
Stage 2: Contemplation. Now you're seriously considering change. This is a stage of inertia; some people spend years stuck here. This is where you gather more information and examine the pros and cons.
Strategy: Figure out your barriers. Take an honest look to establish what's really preventing you from getting started? Become committed and tell yourself you'll overcome those barriers.
Stage 3: Planning. In this stage you believe in the behavior change and now you're planning to take action.
Strategy: Make a plan. Think through all the details. Will you walk or bike? Where will you walk if it rains? Draw up a contract with yourself and set goals: one for the next month, one for six months and one for a year. Reward yourself for each goal accomplished.
Stage 4: Action. "Just Do It."
Strategy: Put your plan in motion. Once your action plan is proceeding smoothly, you are ready to move into the most challenging stage of all.
Stage 5: Maintenance. You've been putting your plan in motion regularly for at least six months, and you've realized you can do it.
Strategy: Work out the kinks. Learn from your mistakes and figure out how to avoid them next time. Lapses are common during this phase. It may be necessary to return to previous stages to solve these slip-ups.
Stage 6: Change in behavior. You have achieved your goal. You've replaced the old habits with new healthy ones.
Strategy: Reward yourself! Understanding the six stages of behavior change can help you achieve your goals and make your good life better!