Build healthy habits one step at a time

Explore the stages of change to help build healthy habits that last.

Bringing in the new year for many means making changes. The thought of losing weight, being more active, or even getting organized can seem exciting until we are faced with actually making the change. Change is not easy and old habits don’t just disappear on their own. Changing habits is a process that is done successfully in stages and small steps over time.

Explore the stages of change to see where you fall in your quest for a healthier you

Are you thinking about making a change? This is the contemplation stage. In this stage, you may be thinking about making the change and trying to find the motivation to get started. The transition to actually making the change can be a challenge. Making a list of the benefits and a list of the barriers that could get in the way can be helpful. Review this list of pros and cons and then ask yourself, how this change will affect my life?

Once you have made up your mind and are ready to take action. This is the preparation stage. As you begin to make plans and figure out specific goals, look at your list of pros and cons and make an action plan from those. Anticipate the types of barriers you may encounter and solutions that you can incorporate when barriers do exist.

If you have started making changes and acting on your plan, you are in the action stage. During this stage you are adjusting to the new changes and troubleshooting any challenges that take place. Changing a habit does not happen overnight. A habit is created over time and tracking your progress will help you make adjustments to stay in line with your goals. Slip-ups will happen so be prepared to get back on track when a they do. Rather than allowing them to ruin your goals, focus on each step that you take on your journey.

Once you have created a new routine or a healthier habit, how do you maintain it and not slip back into the old ways? This is the maintenance stage. Your change has now become a habit and you have overcome challenges, setbacks and been able to stick with your plan. To keep this new habit fresh, add variety to your routine and stay motivated by rewarding yourself. Have a plan for any setbacks and challenges by problem solving and creating an action plan. Challenge yourself by expanding your goals.

Did you find where you are in your stage of change? For more information on healthy habits, visit Michigan State University Extension. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIH) also provides information on changing habits.

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