Making Health Behavior Changes

When it comes to being healthy many of us think about changes we’d like to make in our lives. Being more physically active, eating well, stopping smoking, drinking alcohol at levels that won’t hurt us, looking after our mental health are all important.

Making healthy lifestyle changes now affects the way we feel but also can improve our health and independence in later life. Yet, making healthy changes is easier said than done. Even when we’re strongly motivated, adopting a new, healthy habit or breaking an old one can be a challenge.

What helps?

Considerable research has been aimed at what contributes to helping people change. One problem may be that if we are motivated by a sense of guilt, fear, or regret long-lasting change may prove difficult compared to when it’s self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking.

Goals are easier to reach if they’re specific (“I’ll walk 20 minutes a day,” rather than “I’ll get more exercise”) and not too many (having too many goals limits the amount of attention you can devote to reaching any single goal).

Another important thing is that it’s not enough to have a goal. You also need a plan, practical ways to reach your goal.

Change is a process, not an event.

 Behaviour change is rarely a single event. We move gradually from being uninterested (precontemplation stage) to thinking about change (contemplation stage) to committing to make a change.

It can take a few rounds

Along the way to changing, relapse is always a possibility. Although relapse can be discouraging, relapses can be an important opportunity to learn from and decide to try again. The key is to look back over your efforts and develop a plan for the next time.

Tools to help you

Two tools have been developed through the Health Development Department to help you make changes that are right for you.

  • A Nudge in the Right Direction was developed as tool you set goals and make a plan for change. It follows principles for effective health behaviour change.
  • The Big Five: Taking Control or your Health through lifestyle Changes is a compliment to provide more information about the benefits of change and build motivation to change activity levels, eating habits, drinking, smoking and build emotional health.


Click on the booklet to download a copy. We hope you find them helpful.


A nudge in the Right

The Big Five