You will often experience the conflict of “I know but can’t stop” and “I have to do it, but I can’t” about unhealthy lifestyles such as smoking, drinking, overeating, and lack of exercise. It is very difficult to change such habitual behaviour, and it is often impossible to take action or it ends in failure. Why?
The reasons are different for each person, but if you go further scientifically, you may find the key to success in changing your lifestyle.
So, this time, let’s explain how the academic theory of “Behavioural Science”, which studies such human behaviour, can be used to improve lifestyle habits.
Behavioural science is a discipline that seeks to scientifically study the behaviour of human individuals and groups and explain their laws. This includes psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc., especially modern psychology, which has become a central area of behavioural science. It is a surprisingly familiar discipline that is used not only for human health behaviour but also for the management of company organisations and human resource development.
The basic idea is that by analysing behaviours such as “why do you take such behaviours”, you can predict what kind of behaviour will occur next and control that behaviour. For this reason, we consider behavioural science being an essential discipline for so-called “health education,” which is to change unhealthy lifestyles.
There are many theories for analysing behaviour, but this time I will introduce two theories, the “stage model of change” and the “health belief model”.
■ Theory 1: Stage model of change to improve an unhealthy lifestyles
To change your unhealthy lifestyle, you first need to be aware of what stage you are in the process of change and think about what you should do. The “Trans-theoretical Model” classifies the stage of change.
According to this theory, anyone who wants to change their behaviour goes through the following five stages.
- Indifference period: A period when you do not intend to take action within 6 months. Providing information for change will advance to the next stage.
- Period of interest: The period when there is an intention to take action within 6 months. Make a rough plan or motivate yourself to move on to the next stage.
- Preparation period: A period in which there is an intention to take action within 30 days and it has already taken several actions stages. Make a more specific plan.
- Execution period: Within 6 months after starting the action. Look back and improve your behaviour.
- Maintenance period: 6 months or more after starting the action. Prevent failure and backtracking.
■ Theory 2: Health belief model to improve an unhealthy lifestyles
Next, the “Health Belief Model” was developed to answer the question, “Why can people not take action even if they want to change their unhealthy lifestyles?” It theorised that having an awareness of whether it predisposes one to illness and whether there is a benefit to avoiding that illness affects behavioural readiness.
He concludes that it is necessary to satisfy all the following six factors in order to put actions into practice. On the contrary, because these are not available, the action is “procrastinated”.
- Recognition that you are likely to be in that state
- Recognition that the condition has serious consequences
- Awareness that taking action reduces its significance
- Awareness of the material and psychological costs of taking action
- Trigger for action
- Confidence in your ability to do well
These six elements are particularly strongly sought after in the (1) indifference period to (3) preparatory period of the “stage model of change” mentioned above.
Let me give you an example to make you feel more concrete.
Suppose someone is vaguely thinking, “I want to quit smoking.” In this case, we are at the stage of understanding the risks of smoking a little and wanting to make a change, so this is the “phase of interest” of the stage model of change. At this stage, it is helpful to take a closer look at the effects of smoking and collect information about what smoking cessation methods are available.
Next, let’s show as a concrete step how the six elements of the “health belief model” can be met to put “smoking cessation” into practice.
[Step 1] Be aware that you are likely to be in that state
- Think about when you smoke and when you want to smoke.
- Learn more about how likely smokers are to get cancer.
- Think about other unhealthy lifestyle habits such as drinking alcohol and lack of exercise.
[Step 2] Recognise that the condition has serious consequences
・ Know the consequences of cancer and arteriosclerosis.
[Step 3] Recognise that taking action reduces its significance
・ Based on (1) and (2), I truly understand and understand that smoking cessation is desirable behaviour.
[Step 4] Recognize the material and psychological costs of taking action
- Check the price of non-smoking outpatients.
- Estimate the cost of hospitalisation when you get sick in the future.
[Step 5] Create an opportunity for action
・ Visit a non-smoking outpatient clinic and listen to a specialist.
[Step 6] Be confident in your ability to perform well
・ Set a small reachable goal that you can do this. For example, use a nicotine patch or gum, try to quit smoking for a week, and tell your doctor about the results a week later.
As mentioned above, this time, based on the research results of “behavioural science”, I explained the concrete steps to change unhealthy lifestyles.
Unfortunately, in the UK, the theories of health education and behaviour change that I have introduced have not yet been fully understood and utilised in the field. Therefore, I would like individuals to think deeply about “why did they fail?”
What I feel during medical treatment is that people who cannot improve their unhealthy lifestyle are often too high in goals or do not meet any of the “health belief model” elements. The first thing you need to do is analysed and recognise your situation. And above all, the satisfaction you have achieved by acting. In particular, this sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is necessary for maintaining and continuing behaviour, and we recommend you set workable goals for that purpose.
By using the results of these studies and deeply reviewing the causes of failure, we hope that as many people as possible have a successful experience in improving lifestyle habits and dropping unhealthy lifestyles.