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Motivate Healthy Habits

A Mutual Aid and Self-help guidebook for you, your family and friends with learning exercises, examples and stories.
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Motivational Practice

A guidebook for lay health guides & professionals. Learn professional skills for everyday life.
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"Be the change that you wish to use in the world"

M.Gandhi

MHH - Introduction

Welcome to a journey on exploring your health habits. This brief outline describes how you can use this book to improve your health and help others.

How to Use This Guidebook

Section A (Explore Unhealthy Habits) prepares you to address your unhealthy habits. Chapter 1 helps you assess your readiness to change your unhealthy habits. Chapter 2 helps you learn more about change. If you are really eager to change (for example, to quit smoking), go straight to Section B (Chapters 3–6).

Section B (Become Your Own Health Coach) helps you create your own personal journal about exploring change. This section is in four chapters:
          3. Understand Your Issues about Change
          4. Lower Your Resistance
          5. Increase Your Motivation
          6. Make Plans for Change
If you’re eager and ready to change, read Chapters 3–5 quickly and spend more time on Chapter 6. For example, if you’re a smoker and are ready to quit, Chapter 6 can help you learn about treating nicotine addiction and preventing relapses. These chapters provide many learning exercises to help you change. You may find some exercises more helpful than others. As you become familiar with the different options, you’ll learn which ones work best for you. You can also use the motivation score and goal charts explained in these chapters to monitor change over time.

Section C (Helping Others) describes how you can become a motivational coach to family and friends who have unhealthy habits. You can share what you have learned to help them work through this book. Then, invite them to assess their health behaviors and read the book. On the other hand, if you want additional support to change your own behavior, consider asking someone else to read Chapter 7. Chapter 8 describes how to become a preventive coach for your children. You can help them develop healthy habits and avoid starting unhealthy ones.

Although you can read this book in one sitting, it’s far better to do a few exercises at a time. Do the exercises at a pace that works for you. You decide which ones to do and when. Many exercises are worth doing more than once. You can pick sections of the book to read again, and to address particular issues that are important to you.

Any past failures at changing an unhealthy habit may make you feel discouraged and hopeless. These feelings can make you feel like giving up altogether. But you will succeed if you never quit trying to quit. With each failure, you learn something new about your unhealthy habit that you can use when you try again. People vary widely in how quickly they change. Some can take a giant leap forward in a few days and others take years to change.

Write directly in this guidebook or keep a separate journal or diary. A journal can keep your notes private and make it easier to look back over them. Whether or not you write directly in this book, consider making a copy of the decision balance (on page 57). Your decision balance is the most important tool to help you think about change.

In brief, decide for yourself how you can best use this book. You can work with any of the following options: alone, or with support from family members and/or friends, online programs (based on this book), and lay health organizations and helping professionals. The latter two groups may wish to organize small groups with coaches, or provide telephone support counseling. And remember, not everyone can change without professional help. This book also helps you decide whether or not to seek professional help.

Take Back Your Health

Changing from unhealthy to healthy habits is seldom easy. We think that we should change but don’t really feel like it. We tend to remain on autopilot - doing what we have to do, without thinking deeply or exploring our feelings about change. Our good intentions fail, and we quickly slip back to old ways. To break unhealthy habits and stay solidly on a new course, we need to move beyond
          •
Surface change, which involves increasing our knowledge, thinking about change
             and setting goals, to

          • Deep change, which involves exploring our feelings, understanding our motives
             and changing our views and values
This no-advice guidebook will help you address deep questions. To what extent do you
          • Overlook what you do to yourself (mind)?
          • Sacrifice your long-term, physical health (body)?
          • Give in to short-term, emotional rewards (heart)?
          • Say that you value your health (soul) but still don’t achieve lasting change?
Your journal will help you to
          • Understand your issues about change
          • Lower your emotional resistance
          • Increase your motivation
          • Make a plan for change
          • Stay involved in the change process
Learn how your mind, body, heart and soul can work together and not against one another. You can use what you learned from changing one unhealthy habit and applying it to another.

Create Your Own Personal Evidence

Behavior change determines the success of any program. To increase your prospects of improving your health habits, effective programs must move beyond providing
          • Health information, advice and self-management supports, to
          • Motivational approaches to behavior change
However, motivational approaches can’t be reduced to the research logic of drug studies. Our feelings usually affect our behavior much more than logic. Programs need to move beyond
          • Providing you with superficial objective evidence found in research studies
             (what works for the average person), to
          • Helping you create deep personal evidence (what works for you in particular),
             such as discovering new inspirations, purpose and meaning in life
To generate deep personal evidence, you become the researcher of your own health behaviors. This guidebook will help you create a journal of personal evidence to help you thrive in a disease-producing world.

Thrive in a Disease-producing World
We live in a world that has an extraordinary capacity to produce diseases. Unhealthy media messages bombard us everywhere, every day. For example, tobacco corporations are more effective in producing diseases than health care organizations are in promoting health. The tobacco plague will reach its peak in 20–30 years to cause one in eight deaths worldwide; 70% of these 10 million deaths per year will occur in developing countries. Alcohol and drug problems persist. The war on drugs will not be won.

Furthermore, the unhealthy diet, unfitness and fat epidemics (particularly in developed countries) are getting worse. The AIDS problem and malnutrition epidemics are worst in third world countries. Preventing AIDS, unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases is a constant challenge throughout the world.

Unhealthy habits will increase the rates and burden of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoarthritis. Half of all people on long-term medications for chronic diseases stop taking them after two years. Most people find it challenging to take good care of their chronic diseases.

Many diseases can be traced back to unhealthy habits starting at a young age. Children who watch more television exercise less and weigh more. We are raising the next generation on unhealthy habits. We overlook these facts and fail to address these trends at our peril. Our lack of effective action is
frightening.

Former Secretary of Health Joseph Califano says that individuals can make a huge difference:
     "We are killing ourselves by our own careless habits. You, the individual, can do more
      for your own health and well-being than any doctor, any hospital, any drug, or any
      exotic medical device."

But we spend far greater resources on developing magic bullets to cure diseases than on helping people develop healthy habits to prevent diseases. It is estimated that unhealthy behaviors contribute to 50% of preventable mortality, and yet, medical care can only address 10% of preventable deaths.

Prevention and treatment of unhealthy habits can reduce unnecessary costs in health care and is more effective and cheaper than curing diseases. But it is difficult to make money on prevention, unlike expensive, new drugs that make health care costs go up even more. Concerns about increasing health care costs may encourage governments to use prevention as a cost-saving measure. But in the meantime, what can we do as individuals? How about trying to introduce this principle into your daily life:
                                   

Put Your Health and the Health of Others First

Being healthy involves caring about ourselves and others. If we remain healthy, we’re stronger and more able to help others. But even when we value this principle, we often struggle with walking the talk. We think we should improve our health, but we often don’t feel like it. We trade instant emotional gains (e.g., smoking to relax) for long-term losses in our physical health (e.g., lung diseases). Our hearts rule our heads, putting our health at risk.

The demands of balancing family and work life create different challenges for men and women in putting this healthy principle into practice. We sacrifice our health in different ways. Typically, men place a higher value on their work than on their health, and women place a higher value on their families than on their health. Caregivers often care for others more than themselves.

It’s far easier to see what others need to change about themselves than to change ourselves. So what are your unhealthy habits? To put your health first is easier said than done. This principle may challenge you to alter your value system. This book will help you go beyond understanding better your thoughts and feelings to exploring your views and values about behavior change.

 

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