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Monday, March 31, 2014

What is the Behavior Change Method for breaking old habits?

This is an active system for staying motivated while making permanent behavior change. There are 5 basic steps.

1) Increase your motivation before starting:

  • write down specific reasons for change.
  • talk with friends or others (a wellness buddy) who have made the change.
  • use milestones in your life as targets for change (a birthday, a new job, an upcoming event)
  • make a contract with yourself, or a concerned friend, spouse.
2) Keep records:
  • keep a record of your old habit for one week (or weeks) before trying to change and write down triggers, or events around the habit. (ie smoke after every meal, eat ice cream every night before bed, light up a cigarette when lonely, drink alcohol after argument with spouse, and so on).
3) Set specific objectives:
  • break down general goals into small specific objectives (ie for a goal to loose weight break it into something like "I will walk one hour a day everyday for a week", or I will not eat ice cream at night for this upcoming week, and so on)
  • find a health coach or wellness buddy to discuss your goals and get help in breaking them down into small achievable tasks so the behavior change is not so overwhelming.
  • set a time every week to review your successes of the week and to set new objectives for the next week.
4) Take action:
  • get away from or remove triggers from your environment until new habit is solid.
  • substitute a competing behavior for the habit you are trying to change (ie. brush your teeth after a meal instead of smoking, or drink a glass of water when craving ice cream, and so on. Refer to step 2 for your list of triggers and use this to plan.
  • break behavior chains; a habit is a series of various behaviors strung together. If you interrupt any one of the smaller behaviors in the behavior chain the chance of changing the overall habit is much better. 
  • reward yourself; (ie develop a reward system such as for every cigarette pack not bought but that money towards a vacation, and so on)
  • plan small steps; break down an overwhelming goal into small steps (ie start by walking around the block everyday and work towards joining a running group)
  • use imagery; (ie rehearse how you might refuse a cigarette when a friend offers you one, or imagine how you will look after you loose the first 10 pounds)
  • get help from others; (ie join a group, tell your friends and ask for encouragement, find a coach or change counselor, and so on)
5) Maintain new behavior:
  • keep track of your change (ie weigh yourself once a week, keep an exercise log in your journal, find an accountability buddy, ask friends for feedback, and so on) 
  • if you "fall off the wagon" catch it sooner than later and go back to Step 1 above; this is why frequent feedback is so useful.
  • focus on your new outcome rather than your failure. focus on what worked or went well for you and build on that.
  • remember a slip is much better than a total relapse.
  • investigate your slip for new learning's which you can use towards your new objective.

Many people struggle with breaking old habits and sometimes troublesome habits can make the difference between life and death. Contact Birgit Schinke for help for your particular situation. She is available in person, by email, or via Skype.

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