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Laura Van Schaick-Harman, Psy.D., BC-TMH


Dr. Laura's Meaningful Psychological Services

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Making a Change

Posted on September 11, 2017 at 1:00 PM

It's the start of a new season. School is back in session. We are going from summer to fall. And yet many of us are stuck doing the same old habits.


What if there were a way to effectively and safely change a behavior? There is! It is important to make sure any method used is backed by science and research before setting off on a new lifestyle.


First, if you want to change a habit, you need to define it. While "living a healthier lifestyle" is an admirable goal and sounds great on the surface, what does this really mean? Does it involve changes in exercise, diet, relationships, work, friendships, or social media use? Let's say we target the domain of exercise for example. This is still not specific enough. Does this mean exercise running on a treadmill, kayaking down a river, going to the gym, or swimming? It is important to specifically define a target behavior before starting anything else with changing a behavior. You have to know what you are changing before you change it. An example of a well-defined target behavior for change would be "exercise as defined by walking, running, jogging, stretching, or doing yoga either at the gym or at home."


Next, you will need to track how often you are currently engaging in the target behavior and then modify the goal as needed. There are a variety of ways to track behavior, also known as collecting data. It is important to choose a method that is easy to use and not overwhelming. It can be as simple as writing down the amount of time you spend and type of exercise each day for a period of 2 weeks or more involved such as tracking the duration to spend at each time of exercise. This is to be done before any intervention is created and used, so you can get an accurate idea of how often you are currently engaging in the behavior and a baseline for measuring progress.


Next, you will use this information to revise your goal and develop an intervention plan targeting your specific goal. An example of a specific and measurable goal is "exercise 3 days a week at the gym for 30 minutes and 1 day a week at home for 30 minutes." This is also when the use of reinforcement comes in. This means using a reinforcer, or something pleasurable and rewarding, to reinforcing meeting goals. The intervention may involve redirection, problem solving, or the help of a professional.


If you want to dig deeper into these concepts and more, you can access my very affordable Behavior Change Ahead online course. You will have unlimited 24/7 access to 4 hours of content walking you through how to make a behavior change effectively and with science on your side. Here is the link.


Categories: behavior therapy

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