Creating long-term changes in our lifestyle is very rarely a simple or straight line process, but experts in the field of behavioural psychology have developed tested models and theories, which when understood in the context of our own circumstance, can be very useful in helping us reach our desired destination.
One of the most regarded models for behaviour change, created in the late 1970’s by research psychologists James Prochaska, Ph.D. and Carlo DiClimente, Ph.D, is the 6 Stages of Change or Transtheoretical Model. The model, rather than a single method of change, was developed as a result of analysis of hundreds of theories of motivational change, and perhaps more importantly personal observations of how people went about modifying problem behaviours such as smoking, overeating, and problem drinking.
In this model, change is acknowledged as a gradual occurrence, rather than a sudden event, and considers relapses are an inevitable part of the process. There is often a sense of unwillingness to change and then a great deal of resistance in the early stages, but eventually a proactive approach is developed to change a behaviour. The model shows that change is rarely easy, instead a gentle process or journey, that unfolds gradually over time, requiring small steps towards the goal.
In this stage, you may be unaware of any problems with certain behaviours, and not considering change. Or have you begun to notice that certain behaviours are negatively impacting your life?
If you are in this stage, you may begin by asking yourself some questions. Have you ever tried to change this behaviour in the past? How do you recognize that you have a problem? What would have to happen for you to consider your behaviour a problem?
Are you trying to figure out whether quitting smoking is right for you? The obvious answer is yes! But this is a lifestyle change, so it’s important to look at both sides of the coin to make a better judgement call about whether or not the time is right for you.
You may see some benefits of changing, but perhaps the costs outweigh them? Or are you seeing the change as having to give up something, i.e. cigarettes, rather than gain something i.e. physical, mental, financial well-being?
Planning is key to successful behaviour change – taking the time to look at our daily habits and behaviours is important for long-term change. It might be worth considering making some small changes, for example, setting small targets such as cutting out 1 cigarette per day. At this point, it’s useful to write down your goals and what your true motivations are to quit.
If you have taken the time to go through each stage, you will feel ready to take direct action. In committing to yourself and the idea of quitting smoking, you are well on the way to reaching your destination. How does it feel to be aligned with your goals?
This phase involves successfully avoiding former behaviours and keeping up new behaviours look for ways to avoid temptation. Try replacing old habits with more positive actions.
To lapse is a natural and common part of the process – after all, if we’ve been smoking for many years, it’s understandable that if things get challenging, we revert back to previous coping mechanisms that have been almost hardwired into us. But we can use it to our advantage...