It’s easy to recognize positive behavior changes we’d like to make. What’s not so easy is actually committing to these changes. But why? Whether we’re trying to eat healthier, exercise more, meditate, sleep — why can’t we just do what we know is good for us?
We are human. Our brains are not robotic and rational all the time. We act with emotion. We self sooth. The best we can do is accept our tendency to repeat unhealthy habits and seek a deeper understanding as to why changing one’s behavior is so hard, even when it’s for the best.
Behavior change is contingent on three main components: opportunity, capability and motivation.
Opportunity speaks to available resources. For example, if you are trying to exercise more frequently but have no access to a gym, or your neighborhood is unfit for running or walking, it will make the behavior change more difficult, and therefore less likely to happen. It is important to recognize what external factors may be limiting you and your change so that you may start to address these challenges. In this exercise example, you may instead seek out online exercise classes that you enjoy. The idea here is to set realistic expectations for yourself, within the parameters of your environment.
Capability speaks to personal abilities: working within the parameters of your lifestyle. For example, if you are trying to cook healthy dinners, but you work late most evenings, you will likely come home tired, order take out, or eat tortilla chips for dinner. By recognizing this pattern, and that your work hours are the limiting factor, you can make an adjustment to your goal. Perhaps you cook a large quantity of food on a night you do not work, to eat throughout the week.
Motivation is informed by both opportunity and capability to help the brain make decisions, to decide whether or not a behavior change seems “worth it.” This process can go on subconsciously; you may tell yourself that you’re going to exercise or cook more, but in reality, your behavior patterns remain the same. Sometimes, an act as simple as checking in with your core values – health, family, care – is all the motivation needed to set change in motion.
The best way to ensure that you stay on track and motivated to make positive behavior changes is to account for challenges that may arise, both from your environment and lifestyle. Good luck in whatever your behavior change may be!