Quick Bite: A Basic Introduction to Behavior Change

If you have dabbled in the world of health, fitness, weight loss, etc, you’ve most likely heard of the following:

  • I haven’t worked out in ___ days, I need to push myself during next workout.
  • I ate ___ yesterday, so I need to fast/eat less today.
  • I haven’t reached ___ goal, I’m failing at this.
  • I wish I looked like them, I don’t like my ___.
  • I’ve been doing ____, why am I not ___?

None of these thoughts are healthy. They will not get you to the goal that you want. These ideas are toxic and are borderline disordered. If you do struggle with thoughts like the above and its affecting your quality of life, please seek a professional. These ideas are rooted in our love of instant gratification and comparing ourselves to others. It’s not intentional, it is human nature. These are two of many examples of behavior patterns that helped us survive, thus evolve. Today, humans have access to everything. Shelter, food, water, technology, anything you can think of. We no longer need to spend the majority of our time searching for these resources, we are now living comfortably with “nothing to do,” other than work, raising a family, school, hobbies, etc. We are living in an advanced world, stuck with the thought processes carved into our neural pathways by millions of years worth of successful evolution. What does any of this have to do with health? We’re in 2021???? It is helpful to identify the thoughts and behavior patterns of the primitive brain and use the modern brain to overcome these barriers.

What is this *~secret~*?? It all boils down to switching our mindset to that of self-love before making changes to our behavior. Take the phrases from above and ask or say them to the next person you see. It is not what people say to those they love. We can change our behavior, which stem from our thoughts, once we love every inch of ourselves. Our aspirations are the end result, it takes behavior changes that turn into habit to “set them in stone.” When it comes to implementing a new behavior, motivation is a flake and most of the time there are no “overnight” results.

Before implementing a new behavior, keep these concepts in mind:

  • Bodily processes move much slower than psychological processes; You can think about what your health goals are while not seeing results over time. Change takes time. Pay attention to more subtle changes within the body and mind.
  • The human body is not a machine. The body is a living, breathing entity to house the soul. It cannot push through workouts every day, it cannot function without sleep, it won’t malfunction after two or three “unhealthy” meals in a row, and it won’t follow through with what you want it do to without showing it love and respect.
  • A healthy life is not a sentencing. Most people turn their health around because they would like to have a better quality and quantity of life. It is a permanent lifestyle change. It is not a punishment. It should be sustainable and fun. Thinking of it as a punishment or restriction will not make someone want to do it. Make it fun. Eat plants you like, move in ways you enjoy. Do these things because you love your body and want to take good care of it.
  • Cancel out negative thoughts. It may feel awkward at first. You may need to “fake it till you make it.” Any negative thought that comes up, say the opposite back.
    • “What if it doesn’t work out?” What if it does?
    • “____ is unhealthy.” ____ is a treat.

When you start to think of healthy habits as self-care, it makes them less daunting. Feels less like chores. It’s easier to change our behavior when we are happy! Now that we’re aware that our goals will take some time, let’s change our behavior. A behavior occurs when Motivation, Ability, and Prompt converge at the same time! Motivation refers to how much we want to reach our goals and prompts refers to “setting the stage” to complete the desired behavior. We need to make sure that we can easily access the tools needed to complete the behavior, are physically capable of completing it, and want to complete it. If someone has a goal of working out, but the nearest gym is 30 miles away from home, this person may consider getting some home equipment. Going to the gym in this case will lack ability and prompt. If the same person works in close proximity to this gym that’s 30 miles from home, they may consider going to the gym before or after work. In this scenario, going to the gym will have all three requirements to go through with a behavior. The ability to go to the gym comes from being close by. The prompt is the fact that this person already has a daily habit of going to work. This is a very basic example, I recommend reading “Tiny Habits” by Bj Fogg. He is great at breaking down this process.

Did you enjoy this snack-sized chat? Would you like to see more in the future? Let me know if you want to know more about psychology!

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