Most nurses have an adequate knowledge base in order to live a healthy life. However, if nurses have a knowledge deficit they can research the topic or call upon an expert for help. Often, we have the information we need, but fail to act. For example, we know that the failure to eat a healthy diet results in weight gain and low energy levels. In the long term, a poor diet can lead to health problems and a shorter lifespan. However, we still pick up a fast food breakfast on the way to work. Or, we continue to work night shift even though our doctor recommends moving to day shift. Poor health habits extend beyond dietary choices for many nurses. For example, nurse entrepreneurs in their early start-up days may practice poor life-work habits such as working too many hours or neglecting their family life.
There are many reasons why nurses fail to practice healthy behaviors. One of the common reasons is they get stuck in the Contemplation stage. In Behavioral Psychology, The Stages of Change (The Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change) (Prochaska, 1977) is often used to help people learn how to change their health behaviors through a five step process. Here is a quick overview of the stages:
- PreContemplation- There is no intention to change your behavior in this stage. You are unaware of an existing problem.
- Contemplation- You are aware of a problem. You are considering the problem. However, no steps are taken toward behavior change in this stage.
- Preparation- This stage involves taking small steps toward behavior change. This includes goal setting for healthy behaviors.
- Action- In this stage you take measurable steps toward behavior change. You take control and act on behavior changes. You develop new behaviors and habits in this stage.
- Maintenance- You work to prevent relapse into your old behavior patterns by maintaining your new behaviors.
One action to propel you from the Contemplation stage to the Preparation stage is goal setting. Choose a behavior you would like to change or one you would like to develop. Then form the overall obtainable outcome goal. Next, form smaller measurable goals that directly relate to your outcome goal.
Then take action! Be sure and celebrate your completion of your small goals. Completing small measurable goals helps you to achieve your overall goal while building your confidence.
During your journey through the Stages of Change, recognize the value of health journaling to help you develop new healthy behaviors. In a health journal you can document your goals and the progress you have made throughout the behavior change process. You can also journal your thoughts and emotions about your behavior change. Here are some tips to help you start a successful journal:
- Don’t go so overboard that journaling feels like homework. Set aside a few minutes a day of alone time to write.
- Free write. There are no rules.
- Find a way to journal so that your privacy is not invaded. If you are worried about others reading your private thoughts, your journaling experience might not be as authentic as it could be.
Many people struggle when developing new health behaviors and often seek the services of a nurse coach or a counselor. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help! If you seek professional assistance in forming new health habits, your health journal (if you choose to share it) can help the coach or counselor customize their services to assist you for the best possible results.
What do you think? Why do nurses continue to engage in unhealthy behavior patterns despite knowing how to change their health habits? Leave your comments below!