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Learning Center Experience
By Dr. Kerrie Berends
It’s that time of year again.
Individuals across the globe are getting ready to wrap up the year and are
looking forward to a fresh start on January 1. There’s something appealing and
motivating about a “fresh start.” Whether it is referred to as a “clean slate”
or “new beginning,” the term is not as important as the implications. Renewed
goals and a fresh outlook are often expressed in more tangible terms this time
of year and referred to as “New Year’s resolutions.”
New Year’s resolutions are common
personal commitments to self-improvement and a large majority of these life
promises typically involves becoming healthier (e.g., losing weight, working
out). The Cambridge Dictionaries Online
defines a New Year’s resolution as “a promise that you can make to yourself to
start doing something good or stop doing something bad on the first day of the
year.” It sounds simple enough. Just start (or stop) doing something, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy, and most resolutions are not met. So why is
it so difficult for people to meet their goals to improve health?
The Transtheoretical Model of
Behavior Change is a model based on the premise that individuals move through
Stages of Change when modifying behavior (Lach, et al., 2004). The following
stages are the basis of the behavioral theory:
Let’s take a quick look at how the stages can assist in
making and keeping healthy New Year’s resolutions.
If you are reading this but have not even considered
changing a specific behavior and have no desire or plans to make resolutions
this year, then “You Are Here!” Many individuals do not participate in
resolutions, for whatever reason, and no change in behavior can be expected at
this level. How does one move forward from this level to the next? Simply consider
participating in the resolution ritual this year, and contemplate the possible
positive impacts healthy behaviors could have on your life.
The contemplation stage is where an individual may be
weighing the pros and cons of making a behavior change. What positive health
result could occur because of the new behavior(s)? Would it be worth the
effort? Could this be an opportune time to make a change? Perhaps a poor health
habit is standing in the way of better health? Individuals in this stage may be
open to learning more information about the possible benefits of a healthier
lifestyle (Lach, et al., 2004). If you find yourself in this stage and want to
make some resolutions, then participate in the three “Rs”: Read, Research, and
Now we’re talking! Individuals in this stage are making New
Year’s resolutions right now. This is the stage in which there is intention to
take action in the near future (typically within 30 days). “These individuals have a plan of
action, such as joining a health education class, consulting a counselor,
talking to their physician, buying a self-help book, or relying on a self-change
approach” (“The Transtheoretical Model”). Go ahead, take the plunge, and write the goals
out on paper. Take some time to reflect, then come back and edit the draft. Be
sure to write them as SMART goals:
Click here to learn more about SMART goals.
Action and maintenance of set goals will take place after New
Year’s but are key to keeping up with resolutions. When looking ahead, keep in
mind the following tips for this stage:
A setback doesn’t mean failure and is not a
green light for quitting. “Giving up on your goals because of one setback is
like slashing your other three tires after getting a flat” (Unknown). Expect
setbacks, and plan for regrouping.
Set process goals, not end goals. In other
words, the goal “Take a 45-minute power walk 4 days a week” is more effective
than “Lose 1-2 pounds a week” because the tangible healthy action of exercise
is naturally related to the result.
Manage time deliberately (Pomerenke, 2015). Provide yourself a specific set time frame
for accomplishing the process goals. Generally, people do not miss an
appointment with a colleague, teacher, or doctor. Set appointments with
yourself to participate in activities which contribute to behavior change—then stick
Set up an accountability system. In our
technologically savvy times, there is little room for excuses with plenty of
options to help stay accountable regarding new healthy habits. Post your
intentions and accomplishments on social media, join challenges with your
wearable technology apps, track your diet and exercise on a website, or simply
find an accountability partner with similar goals.
Could this be the year you make and keep healthy New Year’s resolutions?
Whatever stage of change you are currently in, now is a good time to commit or
recommit to a healthier you!
Dr. Kerrie Berends is the Academic Department Chair for the Associate of Science in Health Science, Master of Science in Health Education, and Master of Public Health.
Lach, H.W., Everard, K.M., Highstein, G., and Brownson, C.A.
(2004). “Application of the Transtheoretical Model to Health Education for
Older Adults.” Health Promotion Practice.
“New Year’s resolution.” Cambridge
Dictionaries Online. Retrieved from http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/new-year-s-resolution.
Pomerenke, J. (January 26, 2015). “5 ways to keep your eyes
on your goals.” Entrepreneur. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240411.
“The Transtheoretical Model.” Prochange Behavior Systems. Retrieved from http://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change.
The Science of Being Healthy
Integrated Health and Wellness Solutions of the Future
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And if you are considering pursuing a health sciences degree, we invite you to find out more about Kaplan University's School of Health Sciences and explore our undergraduate and graduate degree offerings.
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