Creating Behaviour Change

Why is making a behaviour change so hard. Weight, global warming, changing career, learning a foreign language might be reasons why we want to change our behaviour.

Through this article we will look at:

  • The reasons behind making a change in behaviour
  • Why behaviour change can be so hard
  • The steps we can take
  • Helpful tips for succeeding in those behaviour changes

When considering how to make a change in behaviour we need to understand our ‘why’.

What is it that is fuelling our need to make a change? Do we want to make a change because of an influence created by society, our work, our friends, or ourself?

If we are wanting to make a change because of an external influence, a change in behaviour very rarely succeeds.

For example, some external influences which may make us think about wanting to make a change are:

  • ‘Being obese will increase your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease’
  • ‘Use public transport to reduce your carbon footprint’
  • ‘You’re spending too much time on social media’

Societal change can work but may take time; global warming is a prime example. Green energy,  nutrition, public transport, food waste, overpopulation and overconsumption. Have you changed your behaviour?

Humans are creatures of routine and habit and changing a behaviour that has been ingrained over many years can be difficult. Therefore, if the change we are seeking comes from ourself, we are much more likely to succeed in changing that behaviour than we are by influences outside of ourself.

When we search for the ‘why’, we should look at the positive reasons why we are making a change in behaviour. Changing behaviour is much easier when we see the positives of doing it and when it is

However, if the motivation to change is coming from negative reasons such as guilt or fear, then the approach to behaviour change will be ineffective and unlikely to succeed.

90 – 95% of people get stuck procrastinating about making a change.

Finding our ‘why’ helps us to move beyond procrastination and into preparation and action.

When you start to prepare to change a behaviour, take your desired behaviour and reduce the number of challenges you will face in order to succeed. Make your life easy. When it comes to planning, use the SMART model.

Also, don’t forget the importance of building a network of support. A positive network of support can help by providing encouragement, a sounding board when you hit a barrier, and supports you through the journey whatever may come along. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Once we have everything in place and are fully prepared, it is time to act. Use that spark of excitement, internal motivation and the support of others to get going and enjoy your new behaviour.

What about maintenance and relapses?

Maintenance and relapses form part of any behaviour change. There are certain strategies we can use so that new behaviours become routine and habit.

Useful tips to help maintain that behaviour:

  • Remind yourself of your ‘why’
  • Use support from family and friends
  • Be SMART
  • Be aware of what kills your motivation, for example, loneliness/boredom/stress/negative ‘self-talk’

We have all experienced a relapse in behaviour. Perhaps bad weather, a holiday, changing job, the flu has stopped our routine in its tracks. There are numerous reasons why a relapse happens and it can last for a day, a month or even longer. It is important to watch how you think about a relapse.

It’s important, not to think about a relapse as a negative. Instead, talk and think about it in a positive way. What can be learnt? How can you move forward? Framing it like this will help with the motivation and the mindset to get back on track.

Remember the SMART model? Well, make it SMARTER. Here you can add ‘Evaluate’ and ‘Replan’, which can help you to evaluate why the relapse occurred and what can be done differently, and question whether you need to replan.

We all suffer setbacks when changing behaviour so stop to think about what could be done differently.

Lastly don’t forget to monitor your progress and highlight the positives.

We want to improve over time, and the positive information we receive and acknowledge about our progress, rather than dwelling on any negatives, activates neural pathways that reinforce the behaviour.

Positive progress monitoring over time links the behaviour we have with the reward centre in the brain which in turn reinforces that behaviour and ensures it is more likely to become a habit over time.

With the new year on the horizon what better time to consider making a positive change. What will your behaviour change be?