Getting Serious About Your Health

Health-related behavioral change

Before you can start changing a health-related behavior, you have to know that the behavior is problematic and that you can change it. To make good decisions, you need information about relevant topics and issues. You also need knowledge about yourself--how you relate to the wellness profile and what strengths you can draw on to change your behavior and improve your health. While knowledge is a necessary ingredient, it isn't usually enough to make you act. Millions of smokers stick to their habit, for example, even though they know it's bad for their health.

Many people start to consider changing a behavior when they get help from others. An observation from a friend, family member, or physician can help you see yourself as others do, and may get you thinking about your behavior in a new way.

What Does It Take to Change?

As we all know, change doesn't just happen because we want it to. Some people seem to be able to change and grow fairly easily, while others tend to get stuck in problem behavior for years. Here are the secrets of moving towards wellness.


Once you recognize that you have an unhealthy behavior, you may consider changing it. But before you change, you need strong motivation to do so. Changing powerful, long-standing habits requires motivation, commitment, and belief that we are in control of our behavior.

Locus of control

When you start thinking about changing a health behavior, a big factor in your eventual success is whether or not you believe you can change. Who do you believe is controlling your life? Is it your parents, friends, or school? "Is it fate"? Or is it you?

People who tend to have an external locus of control can learn to view the events in their lives differently. Examine your attitude carefully. If you find yourself attributing too much influence to outside forces, gather more information about your health-related behaviors.

Make a list of all the ways that making lifestyle changes will improve your health. If you believe you'll succeed, and if you recognize and accept that you are in charge of your life, you're well on your way to wellness.

Choosing a target behavior

The worst thing you can do is try to change everything at once--quit smoking, give up high fat foods, eat a good breakfast, start jogging, plan your study time better, avoid drugs, get enough sleep. Overdoing it leads to burnout. Concentrate on one behavior that you want to change, your target behavior, and work on it systematically.

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