The Pains and Delights of Behaviour Change
As I lay on my side staring at the television from just the one eye, wincing each time I moved the slightest ‘wrong’ way, I wondered how I had gotten into this painful mess. I am a fairly healthy person. I exercise everyday, I make sure to eat my veggies, and try to get enough sleep. And so when I was at the gardening centre last Saturday and casually bent to pick up the 50 pound bag of soil and twisted to put it into my car, my illusions of my good health all came crashing down. We really only feel as healthy as we are feeling at any specific point in time. One minute, I felt like I was invincible and would plant my whole garden that very afternoon, the next minute and a wrong twist later, I was falling against the hood of my car and screaming in agony, the rest of my day spent in a pain-filled prone position on the couch, dreading whenever I had to move in the slightest for the sharp pain this delivered. I know that my health is a long-term commitment and while I may feel like staying in a prone semi-pain-free position forever, never moving and simply drinking all my meals from a very long straw for the remainder of my days, I know that this is not what will help me get to where I want to be – to become a once-more functioning member of society in an upright position and back in my garden, back on the hiking trail, back to sitting and squatting and running and moving as painlessly as I did before. I see the process of behaviour change in a similar way. While it might just seem easier to simply stay in one position and hope to not be asked to do anything that causes discomfort, such as NOT giving up those cigarettes, or staying in front of the TV rather than going for a walk, or having that piece of cake instead of a piece of fruit, we all have some personal health goal. And as behaviour changers, we know that we also must come up with the plan to help us start moving down the path towards that goal. Just as my back might scream when I push myself to a sitting position, I know that by going slow but continuing to make tiny steps towards where I want to go or be, I can get there, perhaps a bit slower than I had hoped. I also know that there are supports that are there to help me, be it my son helping me reach the cup of coffee just out of my reach or me leaning on a chair to push myself up or choosing shoes I can just slip on rather than tie, I can set myself up for success. As my back slowly comes back to its former functioning, I am reminded of all that I can do because of choices I make and had made and I treat it with ever more respect by making it stronger, being kind to myself through rest and taking better care when I put my back to use. My body, in turn, thanks me by healing and sending that pain away. By keeping the goal in sight, by identifying and addressing obstacles that could cross my path and come up with strategies now on how to address them when they come, I am getting to where I want to be. Yes, our health is a long-term commitment that requires kindness, support, motivation, and the information and tools to help us get there. Behaviour change is all about the long haul but there are so many achievements and thanks to look forward to on the way to our goals. Celebrate your successes and there will be so many more..