A Thoughtful Approach to Change
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a nice holiday season. At the beginning of the year, it is natural to take some time to reflect on what you are doing that you would like to continue, habits you would like to stop or practices you would like to bring in.
We all know how illusive resolutions can be. In fact, resolutions made at the New Year often go hand in hand with the notion of breaking that resolve. Why is this?
Because change is really difficult. Like, one of the most difficult things to do in life. Remember that we as humans are hard wired for efficiency- that is, to get really good at continuing to think and act in the ways that we have been thinking and acting.
Another reason, is that motivation and focus can be much more difficult when we are living with a movement disorder.
So how do we support ourselves? How do we engage with our efficient modeling in order to establish new habits (be they around eating, exercise, thinking?)
One model that has been quite helpful in the medical community for helping identify desired change and overcome obstacles to change is a tool called Motivational Interviewing (MI).
I was hoping we could explore a couple of the steps surrounding this model to help ourselves get on board with the changes we would like to make in our lives over the next calendar year.
The MI model proposes that change happens in the following 5 stages:
(Let’s use an example of eating/ consumption)
1) Precontemplation: there may be some negative consequences of an action (e.g. sleeping well after eating donuts before bed), but in this stage a person has little interest or motivation to make a change
2) Contemplation: a person may realize their behavior of eating donuts right before bed creates issues with their sleep, but again the individual may not be ready to making a change in behavior. They are more apt to identify and think about the problem
3) Preparation: During this stage, the person may actually have weighed out the positive and negative aspects of their behavior and concluded that the negative aspects outweigh any benefits they are getting. The person has made a commitment to change (no longer eating donuts before bed) and understands that they are responsible for changing. They may have developed a plan or tried to conceptualize how they might make changes, but they have not yet taken any formal action.
4) Action: During this phase, a person is becoming actively engaged in the change process. A person understands they are the ones who need to make a change (even if that requires help from others). In this phase, the person begins taking action to not eat the sugary treats before bed.
5) Maintenance: In this phase of change a person has solidly performed the new thought or behavior for about 6 months and a new habit has been established.
6) Termination: A person has successfully completed the desired change and integrated a new habit into their life. They may not even miss those darn donuts and are likely sleeping better without sugar fueling their neurons whilst they attempt sleep.
During this first month of the year, it may be a great time to reflect on some of the ways you are supporting your health and wellness (physical activity, cognitive challenges, healthful eating, social interaction) and notice if there are any areas that you would like to work on or bring change into.
If you do not already have a daily movement practice- making a goal around safe walking or functional movements may be quite helpful (please see our video tutorials for support).
It is helpful to only work with one thought/ behavior at a time. Please check out the process above to identify where you are on the scale of change.
Above all, please offer yourself self-compassion, rather than anguish over reversion into your old patterns. We are, after all, just humans.
Happy moving and happy movement toward your goals!