Behavior Change for Health
We could talk until we’re blue in the face about specific lifestyle interventions and how they impact your health. We know we need to exercise, eat better, sleep more, etc. (there are benefits to knowing the specifics of what and how to do these things). However the vast majority of people don’t do it. And why is that? Because change is hard.
The mind is complex and it’s easy for us to fall into negative habits and behaviors. The simple reality is that changing your behavior is difficult. Therefore the most pressing obstacle to successfully improving our health is mindset and behavior. The Mental Performance game.
People resonate with the idea that you can train your body to change. If you’re overweight, you don’t have to overweight forever. If you’re lacking muscle, you can work on that and change that too. However we often forget the mind is just as if not more malleable. We can train our mindset to change in a very similar way. The right inputs over time cause adaptation and changes in the way we think and the way we have.
Why is Change so hard?
Let’s take a little dive into why it is that change is so hard in the first place. You have 2 sides to the equation in creating a change: your rational brain and your emotional brain.
The rational brain is your ideas, thoughts, and things you consciously control. You telling yourself you need to change because you know it’s better for your health is the rational brain at work. However the piece that is less addressed and less understood is the emotional brain. The emotional brain explains why we have behaviors and habit that operate on autopilot (cravings, lack of motivation, doing the wrong things, etc.) We have to create a construct for behavior change that addresses both the emotional and rational brains. We have to make the conscious decision and acceptance that a logical plan has to be put in place (rational brain). We also must understand our underlying emotions and motivations to help keep us on path to our logical goals.
The best construct for behavior change comes from the simple analogy: A rider on an elephant trying to get to the end of a path (the end of the path is a successful behavior change)
The 3 parts to behavior change:
1️⃣ The rider (the rational brain)
2️⃣ The elephant (emotional brain)
3️⃣ The path (environment and obstacles)
✔️This simple analogy pains a clear picture on why you have to check the box on all 3. Without the rider clearing direct the elephant where to go you won’t succeed. If the elephant isn’t motivated and doesn’t want to move, no success. And if there are too many obstacles placed in your way that you address, no end of the path either.
Let’s review strategies for each:
The Rider/The Rational Brain
🔴 Create clear, achievable, measurable goals
🔴 Have a logical plan in place to accomplish your goals
🔴 Clearly Define your behavior change goals(be very specific)
🔴Break Your Goals down into process Goals (What needs to be done daily and weekly to work towards your change).
🔴Write it down
The Elephant/Emotional Brain
🔴Build motivation and drive around your goals
🔴Create a real identity around who you’ll become by changing
🔴 Determine The WHY behind your goals. It has to be intrinsic and deep rooted (not superficial like it’s what I should do).
🔴 Create a vision board centered around this why. A board with pictures, quotes, anything that reminds you of what’s most important. Place it somewhere you can see it every day preferably multiple times a day.
🔴Identify And overcome common obstacles that you know will come up
🔴 Understand how negative habits form and how you can break them.
🔴 At the beginning of each week, map out potential obstacles and plan accordingly. Make it easy to good and hard to fail.
🔴 Practice breaking habits with understanding the loop of how they form. Specific cue (I.e stress) which triggers the want for a specific reward (I.e relief). A routine bridges the gap (typically something negative that we want to change). Keep the cue and rewards the same and gradually interject a new routine to get there.