April's Wellness Topic: Stress Management
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Dr. Susan Lehmann
Stress Management

Motivation for Change
by Susan Lehmann

The first step in making any changes in behavior is to commit to the change. While support and encouragement from friends and family can be important once we begin, the motivation for change is something that can only come from within us. Making changes in our behavior and lifestyle, whether to exercise more regularly or cut down on fat in our diet, can be hard to do. What often holds people back from actualizing their behavior change goals is ambivalence about change.

I recently spoke with a woman struggling with an eating disorder. She could describe the many ways her eating disorder had interrupted and negatively impacted her life. Yet, she had also become accustomed to her eating habits and her unusual eating rituals and was reluctant to give them up entirely. Like this patient, we all tend to become comfortable with familiar patterns of behavior and can feel ambivalent about change, even when we know that our current behaviors aren't good for us.

How can we conquer our ambivalence for change?

  • Begin by recognizing and acknowledging the ambivalent feelings.

  • Then, do an honest accounting of the pros and cons of continuing the behavior versus making the behavior change. Here, conversations with a physician will provide important information about the health costs of continuing our old behavior and the health benefits of change.

  • Finally, we must become convinced that the pros clearly outweigh the cons to successfully initiate change.

By clarifying our feelings and creating a strong motivation for change, we will be well-positioned to start the process of making healthy and lasting changes in our life.

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