Giving up bad habits is hard. But, perhaps even more challenging is finding a way to make sure these changes are sustainable.
Anyone who has ever tried to change a bad habit knows that it’s not as easy as it seems. In fact, most people never actually achieve lasting behavioral change. So what are the keys to success?
Although is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are some general strategies that can help you stick to your goals and make meaningful changes in your life. Keep reading for 10 essential tips for lasting behavioral change.
1.Get informed about the process of behavioral change
Anyone who wants to achieve lasting changes in their behavior needs to first get informed about the process of behavioral change. This means understanding how habits are formed and how they can be broken.
It also involves learning about the various stages of change, including pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse/termination.
Unfortunately, lots of persons never even initiate change because of uncertainty. As such, really understanding all the emotions and challenges you’ll go through will help you prepare for the journey.
Things will still not go exactly as planned but the knowledge will be valuable especially for unanticipated struggles.
Read more about the stages of behavioral change: Unlocking Behavioral Change With The Theoretical Approach
2.Consider the advantages of behavioral change
When you change your behavior, you’re changing the way you interact with the world around you. This can have a positive impact on your lives in many ways.
For example, someone who quits smoking will improve their health and well-being. They will also save money that would otherwise be spent on cigarettes. Additionally, they will reduce their risk of developing cancer or other smoking-related illnesses.
Another person who changes their behavior might decide to eat healthier foods and exercise more frequently. This can lead to weight loss, increased energy levels, and reduced stress levels. There are many other examples of how behavioral change can improve people’s lives.
Increasing your knowledge of the advantages of change will help you realize the value of your effort and increase your chances of staying committed. So, consider all the ways that behavioral change may, directly and indirectly, improve your life.
Read more about the benefits of behavioral change: Why is behavioral change important?
3.Analyze the disadvantages of not changing
Analyzing the disadvantages of not changing unhealthy behavior can help you make more informed decisions about their health.
One of the major disadvantages of not changing unhealthy behavior is that it can lead to serious health problems.
Unhealthy behavior can also lead to weight gain, which can further complicate existing health problems and increase the likelihood of developing new ones. Not changing unhealthy behavior can also have a negative impact on one’s mental health.
For instance, individuals who do not take care of their bodies are more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Refusing to change unhealthy behavior can also affect one’s relationships. Those who do not take care of their health are more likely to alienate friends and family members who are concerned about their well-being.
What will your life be like in the short and long term if you don’t decide to change? Will your habit worsen? What impact will it have on your personal and professional life?
These are important questions that you really need to consider since they will help provide you with the motivation you need to process through the stages of the theoretical approach.
4.Have a clear, specific goal – write it down
What do you want to achieve? What behavior do you want to stop or start? What steps will you take to reach your goal?
Without a clear destination, it will be difficult to stay on track. You need to create a plan of action. This plan should be realistic and achievable, broken down into small steps that you can follow on a daily or weekly basis.
Having a goal is one thing but developing a approach to actually achieve that goal will vastly improve your chances of success. In fact, simply writing things down sets you apart from most and usually indicates that you’re even more resolute.
A written plan is particularly useful in the latter stages of behavioral change and will make you really reinforce the commitment you made to yourself.
Further, it will be a much-needed reference for you to stay inspired and motivated. An additional tip is to always have a backup plan and alternatives. Moreover, sharing your plan with others may help you stay steadfast.
Read also: How To Create A Personal Wellness Plan
5.Identify obstacles for lasting behavioral change
One of the most difficult things about lasting behavioral change is that it requires a willingness to overcome obstacles. Consider all the obstacles or barriers that you’ll possibly face at each stage of behavioral change.
Some common obstacles include time constraints, stress, old habits, and lack of motivation. Each of these obstacles can be overcome with proper planning and support – but it does that lots of effort.
For example, time constraints can be overcome by setting realistic goals and priorities. Stress can be managed through relaxation techniques and positive self-talk.
Old habits can be replaced by new ones through repetition and practice. And finally, lack of motivation can be countered by setting small goals and celebrating each accomplishment.
Analyze your risks for failure and try to anticipate tactics to eliminate them. This strategy will help you identify what situations, individuals, and environments can trigger a relapse so that you take steps to avoid and/or eliminate them.
6.Get support to achieve lasting behavioral change
People who get support from others are more likely to be successful in making lasting changes.
One way to get support is to join a group or class focused on the behavior you want to change. For example, if you want to eat healthier, you could join a cooking class or sign up for a meal delivery service that specializes in healthy food.
If you want to exercise more, you could join a gym or take a regular exercise class. If you’re trying to reduce stress, there are many online and offline groups that offer support and advice.
Another way to get support is to find a coach or therapist who can help you identify the changes you need to make and create a plan for achieving them.
A coach can provide accountability and motivation, and a therapist can help you address any underlying issues that may be contributing to your difficulty making changes.
Whether it’s family, friends, or acquaintances, having someone to support you throughout the stages of behavioral change will help you stay dedicated.
Support groups, professional therapy, coaching, and even medicinal treatment should all be considered and are all beneficial alternatives. Start by stripping away self-righteousness and shame so that you can ask for the help you need.
7.Techniques and commitment strategies for change
How will you go about the change? What will be your rewards or penalties? It’s crucial to identify specific strategies that will likely help you succeed.
For instance, some persons decide to have cheat days to keep themselves motivated. Additionally, it can be helpful to establish positive reinforcement mechanisms, such as rewarding oneself with a special treat after reaching a milestone.
However, if you do decide to have cheat days, ensure that they do not make a significant dent in your plan. Please note that this has a higher possibility of occurring if you really decide to splurge on these days.
8.Self-reflect to achieve lasting behavioral change
It’s important to reflect on your journey and truly recognize and appreciate both your successes and disappointments. Reflection will help you keep your plan current and give you the motivation to continue down your path.
Take the time to acknowledge all your efforts and dedication to change. Write down all your success stories so that they can be used to continually motivate you and others who may be on a similar path.
9.Replace the gratification associated with the habit
To change your behavior, you need to replace the gratification you get from your current habits with something with a healthier alternative.
For example, if you want to quit smoking, you need to find a way to satisfy your need for nicotine in a different way that doesn’t involve smoking.
This could mean using nicotine gum or patches, or finding a healthy replacement like exercise or meditation.
Fully explore all the reasons that you started and continued the toxic habit. For instance, do you smoke because it helps you to relax and has become a part of your day-to-day life? Do you do it as a means of socializing with your friends or to manage your emotions?
Is it because it helps you to control your weight and is readily available? You should be honest with yourself to clearly identify these reasons so that you can develop appropriate strategies to replace that need.
10.Bounce back and prepare for the next battle
Finally, know that relapse is possible even if significant time has passed. So always stay alert and focused and continue to avoid triggers as much as you can. Even if you do relapse, have a plan and strategy to bounce back.
Failed attempts do not mean that you are a failure. Do not be defined by them. Think positively and believe in yourself. Know that you’re not the only one.
If others have succeeded, then so can you. Be proud of the fact that you have tried and know that you can recover. Stay committed and stop robbing yourself-and the world- of a better you.
Final words on keys to lasting behavior change
To make lasting changes, it’s important to take a holistic approach that considers all the different factors that influence our behavior.
By understanding what drives our behavior and using this knowledge to create an actionable plan, you can set yourself up for success. What have you found to be the most effective way to change your habits for the long term?
Let us know in the comments below.
What are the stages of behavior change?
It is important to be aware of the different stages of behavior change as you work to make changes in your life. In order to be successful, it is essential to understand where you are in the process and what you need to do next.
There are six distinct stages of behavior change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse/termination. Each stage has its own challenges and requires a different approach.
Knowing which stage you are in can help you create a plan that will work for you and increase your chances of success. Read more
Why is behavior change important?
Behavior change is an important part of achieving goals and improving your life. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, get in shape, or stick to a budget, changing your behavior is essential for success.
In this blog post, I’ll explore the importance of behavior change and offer some tips for making it happen. Read more
Prochaska JO, DiClemente CC, Norcross JC. In search of how people change. Applications to addictive behaviors. Am Psychol. 1992 Sep;47(9):1102-14.