Monday, July 27, 2009

Between Healthy Lifestyle and Mental Stress

One of the most prominent features of modern living is the difficulty of escaping the mental stresses of daily life. Technology continues to drive the pace of work and living to faster and faster speeds. The cost of living, the pressure of competition for material wealth, and the challenge of balancing family, professional, and community ties all contribute to increasing daily pressures. Finding time to relax, unwind, and savor simple pleasures becomes a rare treat.

In addition to the specific stress-related disorders that this daily pressure causes, stress makes it all the more challenging to actively pursue healthy eating and activity habits. At the end of a long, hard day, it's much easier to grab a fast snack, sit on the couch, and do what you need to do to get through the rest of the day. It takes much more discipline and motivation to spend time meal-planning, shopping carefully, strategizing on how to be more active, and creating time to relax in refreshing and restorative ways.

So what do you do? Start educating yourself about what a healthy lifestyle requires and the rewards and benefits of the extra effort that it is going to take. Start acknowledging that, all things being equal, it is more difficult to live a life that nurtures and supports your health. Be patient and gentle with yourself, and congratulate yourself for taking any time and making any effort in the direction you want to go.

The Process of Change

As you get ready to embark on your own path toward healthful living, it is useful to familiarize yourself with the process of change. In the field of behavioral medicine, researchers are examining how to support the process of change toward more positive habits. As it became more and more evident that people have all the information that they need to know that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising more regularly, the question for scientists then became, "Why aren't more people doing it?" Researchers realized that changing behaviors is a very difficult task, and they sought to understand how to improve the process to maximize people's odds of success.

A leading behavioral scientist, (James Prochaska Ph.D. along with Carlo DiClemente Ph.D.), developed a psychological model for behavioral change that divides the course of action into five stages of readiness that are very useful for analysis. Understanding this progression can help you to be successful in achieving your goal to living a healthier lifestyle. The five stages include precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance.

These phases are meant to describe the process of becoming more ready for change and, therefore, of being more likely to succeed. In other words, you must become truly ready and motivated to change a behavior first, before you start to take action. And, if the process is cultivated in that order-motivation first, action second-the odds of ultimate success in achieving the lifestyle changes are much higher.


Congratulations! Anyone who is reading this book has already progressed beyond the precontemplation stage. A person in the precontemplation stage is not making any behavioral changes and does not intend to make any changes. A person at this stage is not motivated and does not have the tools and information necessary to make a positive change. This person feels that it is easier to stay in his or her situation and even risk poor health and a shorter life than it is to make any changes. You may have friends or loved ones who are at this level.


In the contemplation stage, a person knows that it is better to live a healthier lifestyle. Although the person is thinking about it, he or she has not yet taken any action toward making this change a reality. During this stage, a person is engaged in information-gathering and weighing the pros and cons of taking any action. This person has not yet made any commitment to change but is instead just thinking about it. This, however, is a very important stage.

If you feel that you are in the contemplation stage, then you are doing exactly the right thing by reading and learning more about the benefits of making positive modifications toward a healthier lifestyle.

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(by → richard Bean)

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