If Only...

About 75% of our health care costs are going toward the treatment of chronic diseases – and most of these chronic diseases are avoidable – through behavior change. According to the CDC, by simply making better choices, we could collectively prevent 70% of strokes, 71% of colon cancer cases, 82% of heart disease and 91% of diabetes. The big three are - stop smoking, eat healthy and get active. Seems so simple – and yet it’s not. What’s the problem?

It turns out that as human beings, we are actually hard-wired to resist change. Nonetheless, we can still work around this hard-wiring by following some simple guidelines:

  • First and foremost, be clear about why you want to make a change. Why is it personally meaningful to you to make a change?

  • Next, figure out how you can get "emotional buy-in" (that is, from yourself!). Usually when we decide to make a change, we approach it from a purely intellectual perspective. If our emotional, irrational side isn't on board, then we're in for a struggle.

  • It's always easier with a friend. So, let's say you've decided you'd like to start going to a yoga class twice a week. Find a friend who'll go with you - and your chances of success are much higher.

  • Figure out how you can make a change on your own terms. All of us still have our "inner teenager" - who is likely to rebel. So, for example, if you've decided to increase your physical activity levels, do it your own way, rather than how you think you "should" be doing it. For example, if you're not a morning person, then schedule your workout in the middle of the day or after work.

  • Finally, become a master. The more you develop competency at a certain activity, the more likely you are to continue it. Building a sense of competency can become self-reinforcing. So, let's go back to the earlier example. Let's say you've committed to taking two yoga classes a week. The better you become at yoga, the more likely you are to continue doing it. So, perhaps you might want to take an intensive workshop to build your skills in a particular area, such as inversions. Mastering a headstand, for example, can inspire you to want to continue taking yoga twice a week - and maybe even more!

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