Psychology, Lifestyle And Making Changes: A Step-By-Step Guide

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

Oh, if you just complete “activity x” for 21 days it will be a habit. 

Come on, Just do it. 

You have to make time. Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.

I know you have heard all of these clichés and I could quote you many more. So, I thought with all the clichés and guilt that society — or you yourself — pile up on your shoulders, I recommend spending some time on the why behind beginning and maintaining a healthy life change. 

With the New Year just over a month old, some of you have begun some changes, others are still contemplating exactly what changes to make. 

Hopefully my words will shed some light on where you are in your decision making and will motivate you to begin and maintain your new resolutions.  

Years ago, as part of my college coursework, I worked with other college students on personal wellness and encouraging each participant to look at their current lifestyle and make at least one healthy change over the course of the semester. 

Here are some of the things I learned about what makes this decision matter—and what makes it stick.

How does one go about deciding to make a positive change in their health status? 

First, we have to understand our lifestyle.  

Lifestyle is the way in which we live our lives. Some choose to live a very strict and regimented lifestyle full of healthy habits that run like clockwork. Others relish an easygoing, laid-back lifestyle, pursing life on a whim.  Some rush and rush until life’s no fun…. (Thanks Alabama). 

But we all choose how we live. 

What makes that decision for you? 

Ponder that question for a while and you will begin to see what makes you tick. For those seeking a healthier life style, understanding your current mode of operation and the pros and cons of your way of life is a good place to start. 

Next, we can begin to decide where change needs to take place. 

I am personally in the rush of life with a preschooler and toddler, plus a job, home and husband. 

To say I run and get nowhere is an understatement! I barely have time to think, much less stick to a strict schedule. 

To rush-rush-rush is not my natural personality. I value my health, but value survival a little bit more these days. (Moms, you know what I mean!) Rewind to five years ago, pre-kids, and I was in the gym regularly, dinners were planned and I had TIME.

My current season of life dictates my life style, and I simply fit in what I can. I make my kids’ play my exercise and we eat all eat like little kids (but healthy ones!). 

In two years when we enter the school years, my lifestyle will change again and new habits will form. 

So think about where you are, what season of life you are in. Where can you change it up to improve your health?

Now, to make that change work. Keep in mind that changing involves psychological, biological and sociological aspects of who we are. Let’s break these down so you understand what I mean.

Psychological influences that shape health behaviors include your values, beliefs, attitude and perceptions. Do you value your heart health? If so, you usually make a conscious effort to do aerobic activity, eat a low fat and heart healthy diet, not smoke, watch your cholesterol, etc. Do you have an attitude of joy? If so you value gratitude, cheer, encouragement and seek to find or give joy away. Do you perceive that your diet, exercise and well checks with your doctor will decrease your risk of cancer? If so, these perceptions drive you towards completing these tasks. 

Biological factors can influence change. Following a heart attack, most people realize that their cholesterol-laden diet overshadowed the regular three-mile daily jog. That one biological event (heart attack) spurred a change in diet. Another example is that learning you have risk factors for disease, such as a family history of lung cancer, is enough to steer a person clear of smoking. 

Sociological perceptions and attention towards health can have a positive spin to deter unhealthy behavior. Remember the “this is your brain. This is your brain on drugs” campaign from the 80s and 90s? Or the many campaigns from Mothers Against Drunk Driving? Social acceptance — or nonacceptance — for behaviors can help shape a healthy lifestyle. However, one can and maybe should argue that social stigma or pushes are not always best, especially if people choose to go overboard. Case in point: body image. But that’s a whole new post. 

With all said and done, how you perceive your health, the value placed upon it and your desire for a particular life style shapes your beginnings. 

What is it that you want to change? Let your perceptions, knowledge, and attitude shape your beginnings. 

Join me next time as I discuss how to maintain your healthy beginnings. 



Stay healthy my friends

For Jessica’s previous posts about fitness, use the blog’s search box, above on the right, and type in Jessica Poole.  To learn more about Gwinnett Medical Center’s complete sports medicine program, including our Running Clinic, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org.

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