What leads to long-term change?


January 18, 2021

Long-term behaviour change can seem daunting and complex - it requires us to face established patterns of behaviour that maybe causing us harm, interrupt these behaviours when many are done automatically and at the same time nurturing new and unfamiliar actions. But with the right preparation and application, we can all experience the rewards of the positive change!

Starting the journey by taking the time to dive into your own personal values and why you want to change is important, it’s these intrinsic motivations that will help drive us forward and keep us on track, whether for your own health or for the enjoyment of achieving a goal. What is your ‘why’?

Successful long-term change is not an overnight process, it can only come in stages and the length of time it takes is a personal matter for each of us. Viewing long-term change as a short-term systematic process, it becomes less overwhelming and more achievable. For example, start with just the2 push-ups per day or drinking 2 glasses of water per day and build up steadily but surely from the foundation you have created.

Check out this short video: "A Tiny Formula for Long-term Behaviour Change by BJ Fogg

Instead of focusing on the outcome and designing our plan around it, say to quit smoking, we may look at our behaviours or the tiny habits that we can change now and allow them to build up to the outcome. For example, if stress is a trigger for me, each time I feel stress rising, I can aim to remove myself from the immediate environment and take 5 deep breaths. Or: I know that I smoke within 5 minutes of getting out bed, I will re-frame my morning by preparing for my day, stretching and showering to overcome the first cigarette and create space between waking and thinking about my first cigarette.

Little by little these behaviours take root and establish themselves as habits, and eventually, long-term change. The S.M.A.R.T principle may come in handy to keep your goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely (follow this link for a deeper look and handy template via @VeryWellMind)

It’s been proven that repetition (or conditioning) of new behaviours is important for them become ingrained into our mind. The more we do them, the more we are programming our brain to carry out these tasks with less and less effort until they become second nature – learning through doing. And don’t be afraid to reward yourself and celebrate the small victories – positive rewards for healthy behaviours is vital in signalling to the brain that it will be rewarded for doing them, so it will want to do them more and more!