One of the keys to improving your health involves changing old habits and creating new ones. It’s easy to get discouraged if these changes end up being hard to follow or don’t make you feel any better. In order to set yourself up for success, not only do you need to make changes you can realistically expect to keep, but you also have to be ready to make these changes. There are five stages of behavior change, and knowing in which stage you fall will help you determine your level of readiness to make changes and any barriers standing in your way of doing so.
The first stage of change is precontemplation. People in this stage are not ready or do not want to make a change. It’s unrealistic to expect yourself to make changes for the better if these changes are not a priority. Give yourself time to start thinking about making changes; you may notice a natural progression to the contemplation stage in which you are thinking about making changes but don’t yet know how or have the time to do so. Once change becomes more of a priority, you’ll move into the preparation stage and can begin making a plan for how you’re going to go about making changes. With a plan in place, you can begin the action stage of change and actually start making changes and work toward meeting your goals. When you’ve been working on making changes for more than six months, you can consider yourself in the maintenance stage, where you’ll continue working on the healthy habits you’ve created for yourself.
As you can see, change is a gradual process that follows a logical order. You can’t – and shouldn’t – expect to go from not caring about changing to building a new habit overnight. Take the time to think about which stage of change you’re currently in and set your goals accordingly. With a little bit of thought and effort, you’ll be on the road to changing unhealthy behaviors into healthy habits that can last a lifetime.