Changing behaviours for improved health

Changing behaviour for improved health

The beginning of a new year is a great time for reflection of the past and the possibility of new beginnings.

My reflections for 2018 include moments of joy; with beautiful weddings and the birth of a new grandson. It has also been a year filled with sorrow – with the loss of some very close friends. These times remind me to be grateful for all I have and the things that are really important. I am also reminded that we only get one shot at life, there is no practice run so it’s important to spend time, energy and emotions on things that are empowering and meaningful.

These reflections bring me back full circle to the opportunities which lay ahead in 2019 both for me and my clients in the field of Functional Medicine and the role it plays in our health and wellbeing. With the medical profession starting to acknowledge the role Functional Medicine plays in the future of medicine, I believe we will see a real shift in the coming years.

There is still so much for us to learn about how our bodies function and it will be an ongoing process of trial and error as new ideas are explored and for that research to provide the evidence.

A new year can also spark inspiration to improve health and wellbeing and while I am an encourager of this I also believe we set ourselves up to fail.

We all know that New Year’s resolutions won’t stick even though we’re hoping that this year it’ll be different. We keep hoping that somehow we will find the willpower and motivation to sustain the behaviour change required.

The problem is that as soon as we can’t summon the willpower we find ourselves missing in action.

Changing behaviours

Psychology has now recognised that these methods don’t work to facilitate behaviour change. It appears we have a limited amount of willpower available and we easily deplete these stores getting through the other demands of life, so there is little left over for our health. To me, behaviour change science is as interesting as biochemistry and I spend considerable time learning what I can about this in order to more fully understand what my clients need.

Early in 2018, I decided to complete a programme called Thrive https://www.thrivewithliz.nz/ developed by UK psychologist Rob Kelly. At the time I was impressed with the quality of the programme and Liz was great to work with. Reflecting back over the last twelve months I am even more impressed with how this programme really helps change long-term thinking.

The new ways I’ve learnt of responding to the environment have become integral and I don’t need to rely on those limited resources of willpower or motivation. The programme is very challenging and requires you to work hard and consistently to get the most out of it. For anyone who has struggled for a long time with health and weight issues, it’s worth considering before starting any new diet or exercise programme.

Living in a healthy way shouldn’t have to be a daily struggle with a constant sense of sacrifice and guilt and Thrive teaches you tools to take back ownership of your own emotions. Once you do this you can start making the changes your desire.

Following on from the Thrive programme, I would recommend a programme called self-authoring programme, by Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson https://www.selfauthoring.com. I really liked the unique way he has set out the goal setting tasks. You work through a process of deciding on your goals and then he asks a simple but really effective question; what happens if don’t achieve these? Dr Peterson has used this technique with his university students and found a huge improvement in marks, particularly with failing students.

My final suggestion to tie all the pieces together is a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. I rate this as the best book of its kind that I have read. It is clear, concise and every page is relevant. Once you have made the shift in thinking with Thrive, identified the kind of life you desire and the consequences if you don’t achieve this with future authoring, Atomic Habits provides a series of strategies of how to implement new habits so you will stick to them. Here’s a short video from James:

In 2019, I have a whole lot of interesting topics to share with you. Now in my third year of nutritional biochemistry, I continue to be amazed at the resilience of the human body and look forward to sharing some of these insights. As we say goodbye to 2018, I think we should all say thanks to our remarkable bodies. Despite all the things we do, it works incredibly hard to keep us healthy.

2 Comments

  1. Gay Kingi on April 29, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for your very informative articles, your research, encouragement and dedication to improving our lives.
    You are inspirational.

  2. Janet Brown on May 1, 2019 at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for your unique role of being a Health Detective Susan.You have such a wealth of knowledge, if only more people, could tap into better health and wellbeing with your guideance.

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