Most people have something they would like to alter in their daily life for the purpose of improving their overall health. Whether it’s getting motivated to work-out, quitting smoking, eating less, consuming less alcohol, or meditating more, it’s helpful to first establish where you fall in the Stages of Change.
The Stages of Change model was created by two profound researchers of health psychology (Prochaska and DiClemente). This model can provide support for your personal behavioral modification goals whether it be promoting positive changes or decreasing negative behaviors for the purpose of improving health. According to the Stages of Change model, behavior change happens as one moves through stages of readiness for change. The stages include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.
Take note of where you may fall in the stages of change:
Pre-contemplation – The earliest stage of behavior change is known as the pre-contemplation stage. In this stage, a person is not even thinking about changing in the next six months and has no intention to change whatsoever. This could be due to a lack of information or even unsuccessful previous attempts. If you fall into the pre-contemplation stage, you may not even be aware that your behavior is causing problems in your life (even if others in your life are pointing it out to you).
Contemplation – This is the stage in which a person is contemplating changing within the next six months. In this stage, people tend to have a more open attitude toward behavioral change. They are acknowledging that there is a problem. However, they are not ready yet or sure of wanting to change. If you fall into this middle stage, you may be starting to think about changing behaviors for the better.
Preparation – This is the behavior change stage where people are planning to take action in the near future, usually within one month. If you fall within this stage, you are getting ready to increase positive behaviors or decrease negative behaviors.
Action – This is a stage where people make specific changes with regards to behavior. This stage is all about willpower. It is about altering a behavior. The action stage is the stage in which individuals have made a change in their behaviors in the last six months. If you fall into the action stage, you have begun to take action to increase your healthy behaviors.
Maintenance -This is the stage of change in which individuals are working on relapse prevention (meaning working on not going back to the state prior to changing). In this stage, individuals have made a change for a minimum of six months. If you fall into this final stage, you have made a change and you’re working hard to keep it up. During this stage, remember to reward yourself. Rewards that won’t sabotage your progress include activities like shopping, attending a concert, going to the spa, or taking a trip. The good news is that the chance of a relapse (reverting back to your old ways that weren’t as good for your health) is significantly smaller than it was in the action stage.
Readiness and a willingness to change are major factors in a person’s success in behavioral change program for health improvement. It is beneficial for those who need help to become motivated to change to determine their readiness for change as well as to use the stages of change throughout the process. Each individual must decide for him or herself when a stage is completed and the appropriate time to move on to the next stage. The decision to move onto the next stage must come from within you (rather than your friends, family, or even mentors) in order for you to feel a sense of control and autonomy making you more likely to continue conquering your goal for improved health. Contrary to popular belief, evidence shows that it takes 66 days to form a new habit (rather than the previously believed 28 days). So, stay with it, reward yourself and embrace the maintenance stage when you arrive.
Cheers to your health!