Do you know how to make a healthy lifestyle change?
Have you made a new year’s resolution?
Let me guess…
You want to lose some weight, get active, see some more of your loved ones.
Most of us want to improve – our lives & the lives of those around us.
I know I do.
In fact, studies report 40% of Americans make new year’s resolutions.
So what do people want to change?
A study of Americans’ 2018 New Year’s resolutions found:
- 53% want to save money
- 45% want to lose weight or get in shape
- 24% want to travel more
- 22% want to learn a new skill or hobby
OK, next question…
How long did you manage to keep it up?
A month? A week? A day?
Let’s be honest….did you ever start?
Whether it was to quit smoking, get fit or stop blaming the dog for those bad smells after dinner…
The odds are stacked against you – chances are you won’t achieve them.
Studies suggest only 9% of people actually achieve their new year’s resolution.
The odds of success go down if you are over 50 years old.
If you are living with chronic pain, fatigue & unpredictable symptoms…
Well, you can take an educated guess about what happens to your chances of success.
I wouldn’t blame you if you were saying to your self right now…
“If I am destined to fail – why would I even bother to try to change?”
Well just because the odds are stacked against your new year’s resolutions.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make a healthy lifestyle change.
Experts believe that by having a clear ‘start date’ of January 1 your brain is tricked into believing there must be an end date too.
However, we all know that positive lifestyle change doesn’t work when it has an end date.
Although a bit less sexy than a grand overhaul at the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve…
The key to positive change is to take small incremental steps EVERY DAY.
We all know what we should do to improve our health – but just knowing is not enough.
That’s why we are running through 7 things everyone should know about how to make a healthy lifestyle change – for good!
1. There is no such thing as no motivation
You probably know what you need to do to improve your health – lose weight, quit smoking, cut back on the alcohol…
But just knowing is not enough – something else has to motivate us to change
If you are interested in some advice on the chronic pain diet you might like to read this.
Ever felt completely unmotivated?
Probably but it is not entirely accurate.
There is no such thing as no motivation.
We are always motivated by something – even if that is to do nothing & stay the same.
The gain of change has to be greater than the pain of staying the same to be motivated to make a change.
Just as the pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of change.
Start to evaluate your lifestyle changes in terms of pain & gain.
Is the pain of those early exercise sessions greater than the gain of improved fitness, energy levels & mood?
2. Stages of change
Every change we make is a 5 stage process
- Pre-contemplation (Not thinking about changing) – you have no awareness of need to change behaviour in the foreseeable future.
- Contemplation (Thinking about change) – you are becoming aware of a problem & the need for change but have not committed to taking action.
- Preparation (Getting ready) – you are committed to change & planning to take action in the immediate future.
- Action (It’s happening!) – you are making changes to your behaviour
- Maintenance (Sticking to it) – you are trying to avoid a relapse & realise the benefits of your change.
For most of us however – the stages of change don’t follow a nice straight course from 1 to 5.
People usually spiral through these stages of change.
You might resolve to quit smoking, stay off the cigarettes for a couple of days, then relapse into smoking & plan to quit again.
The important thing is that you will never again return stage 1.
You are aware there is a problem & there is a need to change…
Never quit quitting!
3. Be ready to change
To successfully make a lifestyle change – you need to be ready to change.
Sounds pretty obvious but this actually depends on 2 factors:
- Importance – how important is this change in my life?
- Confidence – do you think you can achieve it?
Weighing up the pros & cons of change can help you to get clear on motivators & barriers to change.
Identifying this will enable you to problem solve the barriers & harness the motivators.
4. FEAR & DARE
We all have a bit of emotional baggage & that baggage can become a psychological barrier to making a change.
If you recognise your own mental barriers – you can reduce their impact
Acceptance & Commitment Therapy use a useful acronym to reframe these barriers – FEAR & DARE
Fusion (our mind provides reasons we can’t do it)
Excessive goals (goals exceed resources – skills, time, money)
Avoidance of discomfort (we want to avoid painful emotions)
Remoteness from values (can’t see why this change is meaningful)
Defusion (identify the thoughts holding us back & step back from them)
Acceptance of discomfort (willingness to accept pain to achieve outcome)
Realistic goals (SMART goals – see below)
Embracing values (What is important & meaningful about this change)
“Everyone has some baggage my dear, but I’ve never seen a suitcase that couldn’t be unpacked if its owner was willing to start by removing the locks” – Samuel Decker Thompson
5. Know your values
To have the best chance of succeeding – your goals should be aligned with your values.
Values set the standards we live by. We feel irritated when there is a difference between what we value & what we feel obliged to do.
Let’s take quitting smoking as an example…
If you feel obliged to quit because your daughter is nagging you – that will be very difficult to maintain.
If you decide to quit because you want to be fit enough to play with your kids – you will have a much greater chance of success.
Your values will become a driving force to make & maintain a healthy lifestyle change.
You can consider your important values by asking yourself questions.
What qualities do you want other people to see in you?
What do you enjoy most about your relationships?
What are your most important roles at home & in the community?
6. SMART Goals
Was your New Year’s resolution to marry George Clooney?
Now, while I am not saying it’s completely impossible it’s a bit unrealistic, isn’t it?
In the same way, if we try to make a healthy lifestyle change by setting unrealistic goals….it’s not likely to happen.
When setting yourself a goal – make sure it is a SMART goal.
Specific: Not too general – ‘lose 5kg’ not just ‘lose weight’
Measurable: So you can measure progress – ‘go to gym every week’ not ‘go to gym’
Achievable: Something YOU can achieve – not reliant on something or someone else (If you are not a Catholic you will never be the Pope)
Relevant: Goals that are true to your values & where you want to be in the future
Timeframe: Set goals within a timeframe this is a guideline & may change but it helps you to make the commitment ‘lose 5kg in 3months’
7. Choose where to put your spoons
Are you familiar with ‘Spoon Theory’?
Sitting in a café, Miserandino uses spoons to represent finite units of energy.
A person living with a chronic condition has significantly fewer spoons than the average person because of the energy taken up by the condition.
Miserandino explains that every day she must carefully choose where she uses her spoons.
Unpredictable symptoms & a compromised immune system mean Miserandino must always keep a spoon in reserve just in case.
Although she provides a wonderfully illustrated explanation of how challenging life with a chronic condition can be, it is Miserandino’s incredible positivity that really shines through:
“Don’t worry. I see this as a blessing. I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste every day? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons” and I chose to spend this time with you.”
It is only natural to spend a lot of ‘spoons’ fighting pain or getting caught up in unhelpful thoughts.
You can CHOOSE where to put your spoons.
By choosing to put your energy into healthy lifestyle change you can reduce the impact of pain on your life, reduce your sensitivity to pain & distress & regain a sense of control.
Most of us want to make a healthy lifestyle change in our lives.
Although the grand overhaul at the strike of midnight seems appealing – the odds of success are stacked against you.
You are far more likely to achieve your goal by making small incremental changes every day.
We all have motivation – it is up to us to decide what that motivation is for.
Is the pain of change greater than the gain of change?
By making sure the goals we set are aligned with our values & SMART we have a much better chance of achieving them.
Remember, when living with chronic pain your energy ‘spoons’ are finite so choose carefully what you want to use them on.