Creating Healthy Habits, Believing in Your Ability: Part 1
The process of creating new habits of behaviour can be hard. The degree to which you will be successful in your endeavour toward better health depends to a great extent on whether or not you believe you can achieve the changes you desire. This concept is called self-efficacy, and your level of self-efficacy predicts how much effort you will put into new behaviour change, especially when it becomes difficult. The most important way to increase self-efficacy is to create a good plan. Firstly, you must set achievable goals; setting goals that are not realistic will cause disillusionment and you will be likely to give up. Your goals should be realistic, and be both large and small, longer term and shorter term, and measurable. The types of goals that will be most psychologically reinforcing are “process” goals. Process goals do not depend upon a specific outcome, but are about taking healthy steps toward improvement. For instance, if you are trying to improve your ability to balance, a process goal would be to spend 10 minutes on your balance program every day. This goal is not dependent upon a specific ability or benchmark, but is only about spending the time on required tasks. Therefore, it is not a difficult goal to achieve. With each goal achieved, your belief in your ability to achieve further goals will be increased. By the same token, if you set unrealistic goals, when they are not met, your belief in your abilities will decrease.
Ways to increase self-efficacy:
- Find role models similar to yourself – people you know in real life are ideal, but choosing role models from the media is also ok. Seek out social support (for instance, an exercise partner, group, or anyone willing to encourage or help you stick to your goals)
- Devise strategies to help you deal with stress and moods (write down how you currently deal with stress to discover which of your strategies are healthy and which are not.) Healthy ways to deal with stress or negative mood can be talking to someone, reading a good book or magazine, going for a walk, or any other healthy or nurturing behaviour which helps you turn your mood to a more positive one.
- Use self-monitoring systems: food journals, exercise logs, emotion journals. Find ways to have someone check in on your progress by enlisting a coach or friend, joining an on-line group, or posting your progress on social media. You can also use these records to examine obstacles and brainstorm solutions to problems that come up, thus maximizing your chance for success