How to Change Your Behavior (Part Three)

by James Porter May 06, 2010

In the last two blogs I introduced you to Dr. James O. Prochaska's stages of change. Prochasaka says that change is a process. It's not simply taking action - like today I'm going to quit smoking or take up yoga - but a whole series of stages you grow through as you will yourself into a new lifestyle that either includes a new habit or loses an old one. Here are the stages of change as Prochaska outlines them in his book Changing For Good.

Stages of Change

  1. Pre-contemplation

  2. Contemplation

  3. Preparation

  4. Action

  5. Maintenance

  6. Termination

You can apply these stages of change to the development of any new habit but for our purposes let's apply them to reducing stress. In pre-contemplation, you might start to think that yes it's really unhealthy to push myself all the time and maybe I do need to do something about lowering my stress. In contemplation you start weighing the pros and cons of actually making a change: "If I took up exercise, meditation or yoga that would take time. But it would be well worth it if I could get over my migraine headaches."

In preparation you select the way you are going to lower your stress. You talk to friends or experts (like your doctor) who could give you some advice about what the best thing for you to do might be. In the action phase you begin to do the exercise, meditation or yoga.

In maintenance, you transform your goal into a habit, understanding that you'll experience a few set-backs along the way. And in termination, you come to the unshakable conclusion that it is better to perform the habit than not to. In other words, now that you rarely get any migraine headaches anymore, there's no way you are going to give up your regular practice of yoga, meditation or exercise and risk getting them back again.

Check out our new video series on Stress Management. At the end of Recognizing Stress, Managing Stress and Resilience there is a behavioral change module that shows you how to apply the stages of change to actually lowering your stress.




James Porter
James Porter

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