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Prescription to behaviour change – Part II

Published:Monday | August 10, 2015 | 12:00 AMJennifer Ellison-Brown

People respond more effectively to change according to the stage of change they have reached at any given time. Thus, applying specific processes at each stage of change enhances the likelihood of changing the behaviour.

Previously, the transtheoretical model of stages of change (precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, termination/adoption and relapse) was highlighted. Last week's article highlighted some of the most common processes of change (consciousness-raising, social liberation, self-analysis, emotional arousal, positive outlook, commitment, behaviour analysis and goal setting) that will help individuals to develop their own personal plan of change. We continue this week with the remaining processes.


Self re-evaluation


Individuals analyse their feelings about a problem behaviour. The pros or cons or advantages and disadvantages of a certain behaviour can be re-evaluated at this time. For example, you may decide that strength training may help you tone up and boost your metabolism. But implementing this change may require you to stop watching an hour of television three times per week. You may also visualise what it would be like if you were successful at changing.




In this process, a healthy behaviour is substituted for a problem behaviour. Countering is critical at changing behaviour during the action and maintenance stages. Unhealthy behaviours are replaced with new healthy ones. For example, exercise can be used to counter sedentary living, smoking, stress, or overeating.




Continuous behaviour monitoring increases awareness of the desired outcome. Sometimes this process in itself is enough to cause change. For example, keeping track of daily food intake reveals sources of fat in the diet. This can help you gradually cut down or completely eliminate high-fat foods.

If the goal is to increase daily intake of fruits and vegetables, keeping track of the number of servings consumed each day raises awareness and may help increase intake.


Environmental control


In environmental control, the person restructures the physical surroundings to avoid problem behaviours and decrease temptations. If you don't buy alcohol, you can't drink any. If you shop on a full stomach, you can reduce impulse buying of junk food.

Similarly, you can create an environment where exception becomes the norm and then the norm can flourish. Instead of bringing home cookies and chocolates for snacks, bring fruits.

Place notes to yourself on the refrigerator to avoid unnecessary snacking. Place mints or gum where you used to place cigarettes. Post notes around the house to remind you of your exercise time.

Leave exercise shoes and clothing by the entry way so they are visible as you walk into your home. Put an electronic timer on the television so it can shut off at an exact time. All these tactics will be helpful throughout the action, maintenance and termination/adoption stages.


Helping relationships


Surrounding yourself with people who will work towards a common goal with you or those who care about you and will encourage you along the way will be helpful during the action, maintenance and termination/adoption stages.

Attempting to quit smoking may be easier when the person is around others who are trying as well. The person could also get help from friends who have quit already.

Losing weight is difficult if meal planning and cooking is shared with roommates who enjoy foods that are high in fat and sweets. It can be even worse if the roommates also have a weight problem and do not desire to lose weight. Peer support is a strong incentive for behavioural change.

The individual should avoid people who will not be supportive. Friends who have no desire to quit smoking or lose weight may tempt one to smoke or overeat and encourage relapse into unwanted behaviour.




People tend to repeat behaviours that are rewarded and disregard those that are not rewarded. Rewarding oneself or being rewarded by others is a powerful tool during the process of change in all stages. If you have successfully cut down your fat intake during the week, reward yourself by going to a show or buying a new pair of shoes. Do not reinforce yourself with destructive behaviours such as eating a high-fat dinner.

If you failed to implement a new behaviour or change, you may want to put off buying those new shoes you have planned for that week. When a positive behaviour becomes habitual, give yourself an even better reward. Treat yourself to a weekend away from home.