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Behaviour change 101

Learn how to effectively set, achieve and maintain your health goals.

Source: Health Services

Your health is your greatest resource. If you don’t believe this, imagine going through the day with a health problem (e.g. a broken leg, diarrhea, a high level of stress) and then imagine repeating the exact same day without the health problem. Which of these two experiences would you prefer? Undoubtedly, it would be the experience of the day without the health problem. 

Many people desire to improve their health and reap the benefits of healthy living. Unfortunately, making lasting changes can be challenging. We have developed this section of the website — based on what research shows is effective in making lasting changes — to help you successfully set and achieve your health goals, whether they be to eat better, engage in more physical activity, gain/lose weight and more. (Note: If you goal is to quit smoking, consult "Your Guide to Quitting for Good".)

The information presented here is a summary of "How to effectively set, achieve and maintain health goals", which is an interactive workbook that you can download and complete on your computer.

If you would like to work with a professional to help you set and achieve a health goal, contact one of our Health Promotion Specialists. This service is free of charge to Concordia students, staff and faculty.

How to effectively make changes

Research has identified several factors that are associated with effective behaviour change. Studies confirm that success can be greatly enhanced by approaching change in a systematic way: with a plan. This lends support to the adage “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.

Effective behaviour change can be summarized in 4 steps:

Step 1: Set a SMART goal
Step 2: Build commitment to the goal (part one, part two)
Step 3: Make a plan
Step 4: Monitor and problem-solve

Our intention is to guide you through these steps. You can download an interactive workbook that takes you through this process.  

If you truly want to make changes in your health behaviours, complete all the exercises and be as detailed as possible. Including more detail may seem time consuming; however, the time and energy you invest in working on the details will greatly enhance your chance of success.  

This is not something you can complete in a weekend. It is an active process, just as behaviour change is an active process. Keep reviewing the exercises and add more information so that you can gain greater depth and insight—and add richness to the experience.

With these points in mind, review "Are you ready to make changes?" below, and if you are ready move to step one and start your journey towards better health and a better life experience!

Are you ready to make changes?

Setting and achieving health goals require changing the things that you currently do. Research tells us that health behaviour change takes place in stages.

The first of the stages, called precontemplation, happens when a person is not thinking about making changes. Examples include a person who uses tobacco and is not interested in quitting or a sedentary person who is not thinking about becoming physically active. If you are in this stage then the following information is NOT for you. However, you may want to ask yourself "What would it take for me to change?" Weight gain? A heart attack? Consistent low energy? Chronic pain? A diagnosis of diabetes? At one point in their life, most of those who engage in unhealthy behaviours think about changing what they do, often because they don’t feel well. Changing sooner — rather than later — means that you can spend more time reaping the benefits of healthy living. Get informed. Learn about the fantastic benefits associated with adopting positive health behaviours. You can also consider what it is you want, what is important to you, and how the behaviour you are engaging in helps you achieve them or not.

In the second stage, called contemplation, a person thinks about changing but is not yet taking steps to make changes. There is some thinking, but no action yet. If you are in this stage then the following information is NOT for you. You can move along the stages towards readiness to change by learning more about the benefits of healthy living and by giving serious thought to how much better your life can be when you protect and enhance your health.

The third stage, called preparation, is one where a person is actually preparing to make a change. They plan to change soon and are taking steps to make that change. Examples include gathering information or making an appointment to meet with a health professional. If you are in this stage, then the following information is DEFINITELY for you. The exercises proposed will guide you through the change process and give you the tools you need to effectively set and achieve your health goals.

In the fourth stage, called action, a person is doing what is recommended to improve as well as maintain good health, such as exercising for 150 minutes each week at a moderate to vigorous level.

In the fifth stage, called maintenance, a person maintains the changes they have made in the action stage. If you are in either of these last two stages then the following information is for you.

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