how to change behavior

Why is Behavior Change So Difficult?

Changing behavior is not just as simple as choosing to do something different one time and thinking it will stick. Instead, it takes conscious and constant decisions, to create patterns of healthy behavior, and have them become habits.

That takes dedication, both to one’s self and to the goal, even when it’s difficult to maintain. So, why is behavior change so difficult? Because when it gets hard, too many of us give in and return to what feels comfortable. Even if it’s bad for us.

What Makes Changing Behavior so Hard?

Most of the time, changing behavior is so hard because our actions and goals do not line up. It sounds simple because it is, but only in theory. Fixing the misconnection, however, usually takes some diligence and hard work, as well as a clear set goal. 

Most of us say we want to accomplish a goal, but then lack the dedication and self-control to follow through. If you’ve felt this way, or feel this way, don’t worry… You’re not alone. The good news is, in order to make a behavior change that will last, acknowledging it goes a long way. 

For many, accepting that behavior change needs to be made first, could be all that it takes to get started. However, changing behavior may not always be that straightforward. In some cases, there may be a challenging mental health disorder triggering negative, disruptive, or harmful behaviors. When this is the case, getting a proper diagnosis is going to be considered essential for changing human behavior

Stages of Change Are Necessary For Success

It takes time to build the foundation when doing work to change human behavior. To ensure changing behavior lasts, there’s a right way of how to change behavior. Depending on how extreme behavior changes need to be, different therapeutic methods may apply. 

The idea is usually to make small leaps toward the end game, by gradually changing behavior. This makes the process sustainable and maintaining results a greater possibility. Once in a routine, behavior changes can feel more natural while shifting toward the set outcome. However, that’s not to say it will be easy, or that there won’t be setbacks. For those that have a particularly tough time sticking to behavior change goals, mental health treatment will aid in reinforcement.

Behavior Change Can Be Environmentally Triggered

Being away from temptation or environments that encourage negative or harmful behavior can be the make-or-break factor. Many of us are products of our environment, which makes changing behavior while still in them, even more difficult. Sometimes, certain behaviors may be all a person knows, harmful or not. Lacking awareness may be the only factor that deters making behavior changes, yet has enough influence to cause setbacks. Other times, it is a combination of location and emotional education.

Inpatient mental health treatment can alleviate the stress of making behavior changes in a counterproductive space. In a neutral, yet goal-oriented, residential facility, focusing on psychological wellness, requires adapting to positive behavior change. Professional and compassionate support makes a real difference in the outcome of long-term behavior change. A well-rounded behavior change plan, created personally for each individual, makes achieving behavioral goals more readily attainable overall.

Behavior Change Plan: Stage 1: Precontemplation

In the first stage of making behavior change, we are often unaware of our psychological self-sabotage. This also includes that which we are aware of, but simply accept, with no intention of making change. In a sense, the pre-contemplation stage of behavior change is having no intention of changing behavior at all. Or simply, no motivation to do it. More so, it is often a grim acceptance of what is, without the drive to alter it. 

Unfortunately, because of this state of mind, many who suffer from depression often go untreated. By accepting hopelessness as their reality, they are stuck, unwilling to attempt behavior change. Without professional care, depression tends to worsen. 

Behavior Change Plan: Stage 2: Contemplation

In this stage of behavior change, a person becomes aware that they could benefit from changing behavior. Or at the very least, that some behavior is negatively affecting them and should be adjusted. However, they haven’t done so yet. Many individuals are stuck in this stage for an extended amount of time. Due to a lack of dedication, motivation, or means, action has not been taken to reach a goal. 

At any age, changing behavior can be uncomfortable to accept. Although seniors suffering from psychological illness may have a particularly difficult time committing to behavior change. In general, the older we get, the more stuck in our ways we become. Even still, changing human behavior after many years is not impossible. All it takes is a slight tip of the scales to make the outcome of behavior change more appealing. Once that happens, the next step is better received.

Behavior Change Plan: Stage 3: Preparation

It is time to set yourself up for success. This usually means taking action to begin to work toward a goal. Group therapy may be especially beneficial to those preparing to adapt to healthy behavior change. Having peer support encourages reaching goals and maintaining them.

Motivating each other is a part of group therapy to look forward to. It can also keep you in the present and more aware of areas that need work. Remember, moving too quickly, or jumping in too fast, isn’t always better when changing human behavior.  It can make working to reach a goal seem too hard and not worth the payoff.

Changing human behavior takes a lot of self-control to stay on the right path. In the preparation stage, be sure to take it slow and become a master of each little detail. That way, when it is time to go full force toward changing behavior, the transition is smooth.

Behavior Change Plan: Stage 4: Action

This is the part of the behavior change plan where you begin to see results. To be able to consider behavior change in the action phase, the change should already be mostly habit and less about trying. For example, if a person were to make the decision to work out to be in shape and feel better. The action stage of behavior change would be feeling good and in shape. That’s not to say that they can just quit working out now, however. More so, that working out has become a part of their routine, and no longer feels like a chore. 

Behavior Change Plan: Stage 5: Maintenance

At this point, you have been performing the action or behavior change for a significant amount of time. You are getting the results you hoped for and the means to get there have become “normal” for you. This is where the dedication comes in. Celebrate by continuing to keep up the good work. 

Behavior Change Plan: Relapse Prevention

Although it may fall in order as Stage 6, the reality is, relapse can happen at any point. Unexpected triggers can come out of nowhere, and throw a wrench in your behavior change plan. It’s something to be prepared for and to be constantly aware of.

If previous steps have been reinforced along the way, the setback is often minor. In some cases, it can even be helpful in casting light on a weak or problem area that needs more attention. After all, We are all only human. 

However, sometimes, relapse just isn’t an option; Especially, when a person’s health and wellbeing are on the line. This is why making slow and steady strides toward changing behavior are the most valuable option. 

Beliefs That Drive Behaviors

The question is, why do we act the way we do? What is it about the beliefs that drive us to adopt behaviors that we then have to undo? What encourages behaviors to have to be changed at all?

The answer, our emotions.

The way we feel is the driving force behind our actions. When we feel happy, we act happy. When we feel sad, we may act down, be discouraged, or even become depressed. When we feel slighted or hurt, we react to those emotions too, and often in a not-so-flattering way.

So how do we get past it?

Working with a therapist while participating in individual therapy for behavior change can help. In order to see that we need to change behavior, we need to understand the “why.” Allowing for a safe space to discuss and reflect, one-on-one sessions are often a major part of the process. Therapeutic Approach to Changing Behavior

There are many different options to address making change. However, behavior change can be done most effectively with the help of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is designed to break associations made to negative or harmful emotions. These emotions lead to the need for behavior change, and some patterns are more difficult than others. CBT uses a more direct approach, not just to change the association to behaviors, but to replace them. The utilization of this therapy is one of the many benefits of professional mental health treatment.

The Mindset of Change

The best mindset for change is going to be different for everyone. However, that just means there are different ways to approach each behavior change. Behavioral treatment centers often include the opportunity to participate in holistic therapy as a part of healing. 

Incorporating healing techniques, such as music and art therapy, aid in overall psychological wellness. These therapies can take the pressure off of changing behavior and allow it to happen very naturally. By preparing the mind and body together, a smooth transaction can take place during the process of behavior change. 

Meditation is another valuable practice used to focus on goals and how to achieve them. Taking the time to work on one’s inner self, reflects positively on their outward attempts to make behavior change.

Getting Help to Make Healthy Behavior Changes For a Better Life

Whether it be a loved one’s suggestion or realization of unhealthy behaviors impacting the quality of life, you are not alone. The good news, there are places that can help, and professionals educated in doing so. It is possible to change behavior. This is not a dead-end road. If someone you love could benefit psychologically from behavior change, suggesting treatment will make a difference. 

If it’s time to invest in your own mental health, learn more about behavioral health and how to get started. The only way to fail is to stop trying. Don’t give up on yourself, you are worth it.