Sun | Oct 22, 2017

The process to healthy behaviour

Published:Tuesday | July 28, 2015 | 12:00 AMJennifer Ellison-Brown, Contributor
Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz at the CONCACAF Gold Cup going through stretching exercises.

The intention to change to healthier behaviour may be good, but to accomplish it is a challenge, especially if you don't have the knowledge about how to achieve this change. Change usually does not happen all at once, it is a gradual process that involves several stages.

Psychologist James Prochaska, John Norcoss, and Carlo DiClemente developed the Transtheoretical Model of stages of change to aid with the process of self-change. This model identifies six stages in the process that describes underlying processes that people go through to change most problem behaviours and adopt healthy behaviours. Most frequently, the model is used to change health-related behaviours such as physical inactivity, smoking, poor nutrition, weight problems, stress, and alcohol abuse. Understanding each stage of the model will help individuals to determine where they are in relation to their personal healthy lifestyle behaviours. It will also help to identify processes to make successful change. The stages are as follows:

 

PRECONTEMPLATION

People in this stage are not considering change or do not want to change a given behaviour. They typically deny having a problem even though other people around them, including health-care practitioners, identify the problem clearly. They have no intention of changing in the immediate future and may even avoid information and materials that address the issue. These people frequently have an active resistance to change and seem resigned to accept the unhealthy behaviour as their 'fate'. At this stage, educating them about the problem is critical to helping them start contemplating the change, by helping them to realise that they are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their behaviour.

 

CONTEMPLATION

People in this stage acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to seriously think about overcoming it. They are not quite ready for change, however, they are weighing the pros and cons of changing. People may remain in this stage for years although in their minds they are planning to take some action within the next six months. Education and peer support is valuable during this stage.

 

PREPARATION

In this stage, people are seriously considering change and planning to change a behaviour within the next month. They take initial steps for change, like even trying the new behaviour for a short while such as quitting smoking for a day or exercising a few times during the month. During this stage, people define a general goal for change and write specific objectives to accomplish these goals. Continued peer and environmental support are helpful during this stage.

 

ACTION

People at this stage are actively doing things to change or modify the problem behaviour or to adopt a healthy behaviour. This stage requires the greatest commitment of time and energy on the part of the individual. The person is required to follow specific guidelines set forth for that behaviour. Relapse is common during this stage, and the individual may regress to previous stages. Once the individual is able to maintain the action stage for six consecutive months, they move to the maintenance stage.

 

MAINTENANCE

During this stage, the person continues the behaviour for up to five years. This phase requires continued adherence to the specific guidelines that govern the behaviour, example, exercising aerobically three times per week. The person works to maintain the gains made through the various stages of change and strive to prevent lapses and relapses.

 

TERMINATION/ADOPTION

Once a behaviour has been maintained for over five years, a person is said to be in the termination or adoption phase and exits from the cycle of change without fear of relapse. In the case of negative behaviours that are terminated, the stage of change is referred to as termination. If a positive behaviour has been successfully adopted over the period, this stage is designated the adoption stage or the 'transformed stage of change'.

This phase is the ultimate goal for all people seeking a healthier lifestyle and the quest for wellness. However, the likelihood for relapse is always high and can happen at any stage. Relapse, however, does not mean failure. Failure comes only to those who give up and don't use prior experiences as building blocks for future success. The chances of moving back up to a higher stage of the model are far better for someone who has previously made it into one of those stages.