We’ve all probably done it at some point in our lives, decided that his is the year we are going to sort out the things that bother us most of the year. Well instead of banging on about how much you should go to the gym or eat healthily I thought I would write from a different angle on this topic – the stages of lifestyle change.
There is a theory in psychology called the trans-theoretical model of change. It is a generalised overview of the different states of change a person may be in when attempting to alter their habits. This can apply to any of the common resolutions pictured above and to many other choices such as learning a new language or musical instrument and deciding to change career.
The first stage (precontemplation) is essentially when you are not ready to change, you are so not ready to change you aren’t even aware there is a need to change your behaviour. This could be for a number of reasons including lack of awareness of the consequences of not changing the habit in question. Whatever the reason at this stage you are not ready to change so new year resolutions are not going to happen!
At the second stage (contemplation) things get more interesting, now you are starting to recognise a problem and thinking about ways you could change your lifestyle to remedy the problem. This stage can last a long time before you either give up and ignore the problem (relapse to precontemplation) or move into the third phase (preparation).
In the preparation phase you start to seek out information on how you might change. For example if getting out of pain is your goal you may have; started to research exercises on the internet, or thought about getting chiropractic treatment, or started asking friends & family how they control their pain. Reading a blog like this is often part of the preparation phase.
Stage four, now the real action begins! This is when you finally start to do the things that will help you change. This may include going to the gym, joining an exercise class or letting your chiropractor get your muscles and joints out of pain and teaching you how to exercise correctly.
Unfortunately as with all the other stages relapses happen and you may have to go through several preparation/action stages before you finally make it stick as a lifestyle change that will improve your life. Those who are able to keep the positive changes from the action stage going are finally able to reach the maintenance stage. Relapses still happen but they are much less likely to happen at this stage especially as you will now notice the benefits of action which should help you realise what you are missing if you do relapse and lose them.
So if you have gone down the road of yet another new year resolution, think about these stages and where you are currently at, realise that many people will be in the same boat as you. Even though it is normal to relapse multiple times eventually success can be achieved if you can make the action stage stick long enough to make it your new “normal” habit.