If I’ve learned anything while working at the Clergy Health Initiative, it’s that changing health behaviors is HARD! Whether you’re attempting to lose weight, increase physical activity, or manage a chronic disease, there truly is no silver bullet or magic wand. The ticket to your success will not only look different from that of every other person, but it may even feel like your own personal science experiment. Sometimes it takes trying this or that strategy before landing on the right one or the right combination of strategies that leads to progress.
So, while we can’t recommend the golden set of health rules, there do seem to be some universal concepts that work, which you can personalize for your own situation and goals. The 9 tips below are summarized from this article in The Washington Post:
- Readiness Not your spouse, doctor, or friend, but YOU, have to be the one to recognize a behavior that needs improvement, and then you have to be ready to get to work.
- Assess Whether it’s through technology or old-fashioned pen and paper, keep track of your habits for a few days. Write down descriptions of your meals, exercising, or sleep patterns to see the reality of your situation.
- Be selective Choose behaviors that will impact your life in a meaningful way so that you are motivated to follow through with the required changes.
- Use SMART goals Create specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-specific goals.
- Track your progress This will help you recognize progress, trends, and can serve as accountability.
- Evaluate Think of this change process as an experiment and be willing to look for other strategies if you’re not seeing success within a desired time period.
- Success Break up your goals into small, actionable behaviors. For example, rather than just saying you want to lose weight, break that up into small steps. One step might be taking fruit to work every day as a snack. You will feel good when you are successful in meeting this smaller goal, and that will likely lead to future changes.
- Practice Stick with what works and slowly add in other small changes. For example, once you’ve gotten into the habit of having fruit for a snack every day, keep doing that and add another small change. Maybe you could replace your sweet tea at lunch with water.
- Support Find someone in your life who can applaud you in your successes and who can help you stay on track when the going gets tough. Or, seek out professional support, such as a dietician or fitness trainer.
Remember, health changes are not easy, nor are they one-size-fits-all. Do what works for you!