Most new year’s resolutions are related to fitness, healthy eating and similar goals. However, after three months, just 10% of people think their resolution will stick.
Behavior change and a long-term vision can help you achieve your resolutions. Research around health-related behaviors indicates that small changes lead to significant improvements in health outcomes, including increased life expectancy. These changes can have positive effects on those around us, too. To make changes, though, most people need first to believe that they have the ability to do so, and that they will succeed.
One widely recognized behavior-change theory is the health-belief model, which suggests that a person’s belief in the risk of an illness or disease – along with their belief in the impact of the recommended health behavior or action – will predict the probability the person will change their behavior(s). Ultimately, a person’s actions often depend on perception of the benefits and barriers related to that health behavior:
• Perceived susceptibility: What’s the risk of acquiring an illness or disease?
• Perceived severity: What’s the seriousness of contracting an illness or disease?
• Perceived benefits: How effectively can I reduce the threat?
• Perceived barriers: What obstacles are there?
• Cue to action: What’s needed to accept a recommended health action?
• Self-efficacy: How confident am I in successfully performing a behavior?
In this model, the behaviors and opinions of the people around us highly influence our perceptions and are often anecdotal. If you’re having trouble committing to a health or fitness goal, consider changing your framework on how you approach it.
For example, I want to reduce my chances of becoming diabetic or pre-diabetic by cutting daily sugar intake by 50% and being physically active three or four times a week.
• Perceived susceptibility: How likely am I to become diabetic?
• Perceived severity: If I became diabetic, how serious would it be?
• Perceived benefits: How effective would treatment recommendations be?
• Perceived barriers: What are the obstacles?
• Cue to action: What is my motivation?
• Self-efficacy: Do I believe I can reach my goals?
Next, work on your mindset. Talk to your physician to get a clear understanding of your risk and how serious it could be. Seek ways to overcome barriers. Remind yourself of the benefits and the cue to action – the why of this journey. Talk to family, friends and colleagues who may have had similar experiences, and ask for support. Seek guidance from medical professionals who can help you create a strategy for positive health outcomes.
Your confidence will grow as you start to see small changes, which will help you stick to your plan, creating habits for positive change.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is past commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District and Hollywood Post 43.