Whether you want to stop drinking, smoking or you just want to eat more healthy or exercise more, we all have behaviours we’d like to begin (or change) and yet often our entrenched habits get in the way of healthier behaviour change.As an online counsellor, I find myself giving advice about changing habits on a daily basis. My clients usually succeed in making their desired changes and I have found that when they follow the behaviour change model below then the changes are not only short lived but become a permanent and lasting change.
The psychology behind behaviour change can sound complex and many of the writings on the subject adds to the complexity unnecessarily.
Prochaska and DiClemente shared the best and easiest to understand model of behaviour change, their ‘Stages of Change Model’.
The Five STAGES of Change
In the pre contemplation stage we may have not yet considered change or have not looked seriously at changing a particular behaviour.
Quite often the seeds of change are planted by friends or family, or maybe by the press and social media, messages which tell us how we can better improve our lives are everywhere nowadays.
We often expel these messages, particularly if we feel we are being preached to, however some of the messaged may in fact be in tune with our own desires.
In the contemplation stage we may have begun to actively consider our want/need to change a particular behaviour, to seriously consider the idea. This stage may differ in duration, anything from a fleeting idea to a lifetime of contemplating.
Moving from contemplation to the next action stage is really about ‘one’s belief in the idea’. There may be many dismissals of the want/need to change a particular behaviour or habit, there may be lots of internal wrangling with excuses and very valid reasons why the status quo should not be changed, however, remembering and focussing on our original desire may get us past these doubts.
In this stage, we actually begin preparing ourselves mentally and often physically for action. The drinker may pour out all their alcohol, the overweight may join a gym. We pick ‘change’ days. We schedule ‘action’ days.
This focussing of determination is the culmination of the decision and the actual belief that change is for the better, it fires up our engine which will drive us to our goal. Motivation in enough vigour and a deeply held belief will make any behaviour change doable.
Here we go. We walk to work or take a few extra minutes exercise with the intent of doing it regularly.
We stop drinking, smoking gambling or whatever it was which we felt was not adding value to our lives.
Behaviour change is upon us, we have done it, started!
Continuation, new habit forming, that’s what is required now. abstinence from drinking. Continuing to eat breakfast, walk that little bit more every day.
Continuing to control your healthier choices. Starting a new behaviour usually seems like the hardest part of the process of change, and it can be, but we often fail to plan for the most important stage of ‘maintenance’.
Undoubtably, maintaining a ‘new behaviour’ is the most challenging part of any behaviour change.
One of the reasons we fail at maintaining a change is because we believe the same strategies we used to initiate the change will be as effective in helping us continue the change, however, sometimes they aren’t.
We are attempting to change deep rooted beliefs and they are entrenched into our psyche, we must redefine our belief and our understanding for a significant time before we can successfully reframe our thinking from the old way. If we lose motivation or feel low or are knocked by external comments and negativity, our commitment to the hard work may become unsteady. and we may experience a blip or return to the old way, remember, its not the end of the world to have a blip, its demonstration of the power of the old entrenched ways, we can recover from a blip.
When you’re feeling good again, get back on track, do the things which worked before, they will work again.
The key to maintaining new behaviours is to believe that you will succeed and be happy that you are taking control of your life and doing what you believe is best for you.
Professional Online Counsellor and Life Coach – Paul Parkin
I am an experienced, professional online counsellor, with over 15 years experience working as a counsellor and life coach offering confidential, affordable counselling online to clients anywhere in the world.
By living a simple life and working from home I have reduced my costs enabling me to reduce the session fees for clients, making online counselling more accessible to people seeking online counselling.
Combining humanistic, person centred counselling and therapy with practical life coaching strategies, I can support you through your issues and as a result, provide you with the therapeutic tools to create a happier future.
Paul Parkin – Online Counselling & Life Coaching