Monday, November 18, 2013

Healthy Lifestyle (Part I)

I oftentimes talk about perspective as a tool, rather than a habitual individual vantage point. It is a tool that I believe shines best amid struggle. 

I would like to explain my thoughts on this concept. In doing so, I will pick on the ever popular concept of creating a healthy lifestyle, also known as getting healthy.

Setting the Stage
About this time of year many people start thinking about changes that they want to make for the coming year. Oftentimes this plan involves toying with the idea of getting healthy and improving your fitness efforts. 

Real changes won't begin until after the Holiday's of course, because you crave certain things during these next few Holiday's. Maybe there is no time to devote to fitness, or maybe you associate getting healthy with being outdoors and you don't like being outdoors during the winter.

Whatever the case may be, this effort is often viewed as a big job with huge changes. Seldom do people that are seeking big change, change just one thing at a time. Usually they try to change everything all at once. 

These huge changes may stay in effect for a few days or a couple of months, but eventually the efforts fail your perceived standard or goals and then you revert back to the path of least resistance (i.e., old habits). 

The perceived standard is usually you measuring what you feel is the worst about you and comparing it to someone else's best.

The silly thing about this is that oftentimes that "best" is chronically under horrible scrutiny by the other person and seldom accepted as good.

Stages of Change
I really like James Prochaska's Transtheoretical Model of Change1. I like the Model of Change because it has so many applications to human behavior. 

The pre- and post- Holiday's desire to become committed to change and "get healthy" really puts things in perspective for me. 

According to the five stages of the model, Group 1 (most people) vacillate roller-coaster style between the first four stages and lose it most often in the fourth stage (Action).

Group 2 is where the majority of the people that succeed past the Action Phase tend to linger; bouncing between Contemplation, Preparation, and Action as they lose focus or discipline not long after they start the Maintenance Phase. 

Group 3 are the people that we usually compare ourselves against. Group 3 houses the people that generally live in the Maintenance Phase, when they slip out of that phase, they seem to speed through the first four phases in very little time and then they return to the Maintenance Phase rapidly. They make everything look so darn easy.

In my own personal opinion, I believe there is a sixth element to the Model of Change; which is Struggle. I say Struggle and not the Struggle Phase. Struggle isn't a phase that we come in and out of identifiably; rather struggle is present in each of the five stages.

The influence of struggle throughout the five stages is generally due to our perspective about what is happening within each of these stages. I will explain this in more detail in the next post.
1Prochaska, JO; DiClemente, CC. Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: toward an integrative model of change. J Consult Clin Psychol 1988 Jun;51(3):390–5. Accessed 2009 Mar 18.

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