Maybe you aren’t feeling motivated to eat better, exercise more, drink less caffeine or make any number of the positive lifestyle changes quite yet, but New Year’s resolutions are upon us. Making a lifestyle change is challenging; everyone has tried and failed before. Rather than thinking of it as a resolution that requires a hard left turn, this year commit to embarking on an evolution of yourself.
I am going out on a limb here as a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, but I believe many ailments can be treated with lifestyle adjustments rather that a pill. We too often capitulate to the belief that a pill is the answer to what ails us, but many times we hold the answers in our daily life. There is no shortage of advice and information online. Conduct a quick Google search for lifestyle changes; many thought leaders within the medical community pop up – Top 5 lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol (Mayo Clinic), Making lifestyle changes that last (American Psychological Association), Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention (American Heart Association) – and the list goes on and on. With all the information out there, why don’t we heed the call and make these changes?
Making lifestyle changes will take time and necessitate support. And once you have committed to change, the difficult part rests ahead of you. In order to navigate this process, set yourself up for success by planning and setting small goals to achieve one step at a time. The journey of health is equally as important as the destination.
The transtheoretical model (TTM) of behavior change is one tool to help you get started on making that healthy change.
The five stages of the TTM model are Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance, as illustrated below.
Five stages of change in the transtheoretical model of behavior change In the first stage, precontemplation, you receive external feedback or information that brings on your awareness of a potential problem. In the contemplation stage, your process is internal: you know you have a problem and think that you’ll address it at some point in the future. In the preparation stage, you are planning to embark on the change imminently and are enlisting tools and support to help you during your journey. The action phase is dominated by, well, action. You are knee deep in making the change. The final phase is about learning to embrace the new you and your new lifestyle in an effort to maintain the healthy change over time. Click to read more about TTM and the five stages of change.
The route from one stage to the next is seldom direct. Setbacks are not unusual. One could almost even say inevitable. Many people relapse at one time or another and reprocess themselves through stages, like a cycle. One study showed that smokers looking to quit cycled an average of three or four times through the “action” stage before they experienced success. When a setback takes place, you may find yourself one or two stages back. Or you may find yourself all the way back to precontemplation if the decline was particularly demoralizing. Professionals tell people not to be completely derailed by setbacks but to think of them as a fundamental part of the change progression. One learns something new every time they have a setback. Use them as fuel and wisdom for the journey. Marcel Proust put it well when he said,
“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
My hope for you in 2015, is that you take the new knowledge you have learned and apply it to your continuing journey of change. Evolve. - Adam Metcalf, Pharm. D., Owner