Sarah Joseph M.S., CSCS

Workout Blog

Psych up! - The psychology of making a health behavior change.

Posted by Sarah on April 8, 2015 at 1:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Individual influences including demographics ,perception of health status, as well as social and environmental influences contribute to the ultimate success or failure of an attempt at a health behavior change.

Motivation is one individual influence that has several driving factors. Perceptions of exercise are partially based upon previous experiences with it. Perceptions of the benefits of the health behavior change are based off previous experiences and as a result, determination of the benefits of making the change. Additionally, those who are more self-motivated will continue to be motivated through self monitoring and goal setting. Those who are motivated by external factors will seek more support from their social group and their environment will be a greater determinant of their health behavior change attainment.

Because externally motivated people will be more likely to be derailed if their environment does not support their health behavior change, it will be important for them to make decisions that limit exposure to such unhealthy situations.

Allow me to demonstrate. Someone who takes body measurements monthly and experiences increased energy and reduction in medications with regular exercise is less likely to be derailed by media influences that contribute to poor body image or a spouse that does not have the same lifestyle goals. This person is well prepared for the behavior change. They’ve recognized their unhealthy patterns. They’ve taken initial body measurements. They’re getting positive feedback. Overtime these things may lead to increased self-efficacy (the belief one has in their ability to accomplish the task), and internal motivation.

If you are truly self– determined and intrinsically motivated, your best friend bringing over a batch of brownies will be less likely to derail you and it won’t matter if the gym is closed because you’ll find a way to fit in a workout.

One of the most important aspects of preparation for a healthy behavior change is preparing for failure. Making a behavior change is not easy and chances are that at some point something will go wrong.

Consider how you will deal with these challenges. What actions will you take? What thoughts will you think? Will you resort to negative statements like, “It’s impossible to find time to exercise?” Will you restructure your thinking to, “I’ll make the changes I need to in order to succeed?” Take advice from Missy Elliot and some other rappers and think, “Ya’ll can’t stop me now!”

Cognitive restructuring or turning negative statements into more constructive positive ones takes practice. “I’m talkin’ bout PRACTICE, man.”-Allen Iverson.

The key point is to recognize what individual, social, and environmental factors are steering you towards to away from success. Understand and learn how to deal with things that you can not change so that they become less of a barrier to you. Also, realize that your motivational influences may be extrinsic initially, but as you progress, they can become more intrinsic through positive health changes.