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Want to change your behavior? Read this

My undergraduate degree is in health education and promotion. I took a class called Health Behavior Theory, one of my favorite classes with one of my favorite teachers. In that class, we learned about different theories of behavior change, one of them being the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. Have you heard of it? It's pretty cool.

In this model, there are six stages of behavior change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination/relapse. I'll use the example of yoga, but substitute whatever is important to you.

During pre-contemplation, one is unaware that a change needs to be made. They may feel tight or stiff, but think that's just what happens as you get older. They don't want to make any changes. The cons outweigh the pros.

During contemplation, one becomes aware that a change needs to happen. The tight muscles and stiff joints begin to hinder them from doing things that they love, so they start to think about doing something to improve their mobility and flexibility. They are still not sure about what to do, but they start to think about doing something. This stage can last for a while - 6 months to a year.

During preparation, one begins to ask people who they trust for suggestions. They are ready to make a change soon - maybe within a month. At this point, the pros of changing the behavior begin to outweigh the cons. They are ready to take on a new behavior, even if that means that they have to be uncomfortable at first. They buy the yoga mat, they get some athletic clothes, and they start looking for classes on Youtube.

During action, that person presses play on the yoga class. They include classes in their google calendar. They even reach out to other people who practice and begin to feel like they are within a community.

During maintenance, this person has been practicing for more than six months and has made it a part of their lifestyle. The new behavior is woven into the fabric of their daily life and value system. They make conscious decisions to include the new behavior in their life! This stage, which is the most difficult stage for some, can go on for years.

During termination there is more ease and less effort; the person can't imagine going back to what they were doing prior to the behavior change. On the flip side, there is relapse which is pretty self-explanatory!

A person can leave the process and enter the process again at any point.

My teacher - who, at that point, was the only Black female teacher I had in my collegiate experience - played a scene from The Chapelle Show to show all of the stages of change. I wish I could remember the scene! But it was SO funny and so refreshing to have a culturally black reference for learning new material. But back to the model of behavior change --

Some questions for you to consider:

  • How can having a consistent yoga practice benefit you and your life?

  • How psyched are you to practice? Your mindset will help you make moves!

  • Do you want to see yourself as a person who practices yoga?

  • What is life like when you're practicing vs. when you're not practicing?

  • Do you have friends who also practice? How about teachers? These can be people you know personally or from afar.

  • Would practicing yoga be a good substitute for a different, possibly incongruent, behavior?

  • Can you hack your behavioral reward system by doing something nice for yourself after completing a yoga practice?

  • Can you set reminders for yourself to practice? Perhaps keep your mat on the floor? Maybe even queue up the class the evening before and press play as soon as your feet hit the mat?

Maybe your goal isn't to practice more yoga -- maybe it is to walk 10,000 steps a day or drink 12-16 glasses of water a day. Maybe it is to STOP doing a habit. Read back through this and substitute yoga for whatever you want to bring into your life. I hope this quick explanation of the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change and journaling prompts helps you on your path toward an aligned life!

As always, thank you for learning, growing, and practicing with me! Megan Spears

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