Develop New Habits

Have you ever wondered  why it is so much easier to change your ways some times more than others?

Like when you join a gym and then stop going after a month or two, despite the fact that you still pay for it.

When this happens, it might be worth asking yourself why you want to make that change in the first place. It has been shown recently (Gardner and Lally, 2012) that new habits, particularly physical activity, are more likely to become ingrained in our behaviour if we place a high personal value to it. In other words, if you enjoy the actual behaviour then it will be more likely to stick, than if you are only doing it because you think you should.

In the event that you do find something that you really do enjoy doing, then there are certain things that you can do to help ensure that you stay with it for the long term. For example, making an action plan of how you are going to implement the behaviour in your life is one way of bridging that gap between intention to do it and actual habit strength (Fleig et al, 2013).

By making a conscious plan like this, you may actually significantly increase the strength of the new habit.

There is a model of behaviour change that has become prominent in the field of ‘Health Behaviour’ called the Trans-Theoretical Model of Behaviour (Procheska et al, 1992). The simpler title that it is often referred to is ‘The Stages of Change’ model. Briefly put, it is suggested that when we are embarking on a change of behaviour, whether it be starting something new or quitting an old habit, we invariably go through a range of different stages.

These stages include;

  • ‘Pre-contemplation’ where we haven’t even consciously thought that a change is needed yet.
  • ‘Contemplation’ where we begin to think about making some sort of change, and what that might involve.
  • ‘Action’ involves making the changes.
  • ‘Maintenance’ is exactly that, maintaining the change that we have made.
  • ‘Relapse’ where the behaviour is being implemented but we run into certain obstacles.

It can sometimes be quite helpful to have a look at where you are within this cycle, and in doing so come up with some strategies to help you along the way.

One such strategy may entail asking for some professional help. This in itself may not feel very easy to do. However, it might be worth making that leap and gaining the support of a professional in helping to implement a long term change in behaviour.

Another study by Vermunt et al (2012) has shown that interventions really do help to make the move between motivation and action. They placed particular emphasis on a ‘small step’ approach going some way to support the theory that small changes are easier and more effective than making large drastic changes in your behaviour, if only because they are more likely to become habitual.

So do you want to make any positive changes in your life? If you do, why do you? What can you do to help that change become a habitual and permanent?

And don’t forget that it’s O.K to ask for help sometimes.