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The Complexities of Lifestyle Changes


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Changing a behavior isn’t easy. While clients have great intentions, they often struggle with consistent follow-through. They have grand hopes and dreams of taking care of their bodies, but then life gets in the way.Whether it’s a new baby, a worrisome diagnosis, a job change, an unsupportive spouse, a flaky workout buddy,an unrelenting work schedule, or a vacation, the joys and challenges of life take us off course on the winding road toward health.
Before we can spell out the best strategies for assisting others in making permanent lifestyle changes, it’s important to take a moment and discuss the complexities of change. In order to develop empathy for clients,it’s often helpful to consider your own health patterns. Think about positive behaviors that you do naturally without any prompting. For many, brushing teeth twice a day is an ingrained habit. For the regular teeth brushers, how did it become so easy? Why do you do it? It’s likely because the benefits of the behavior outweigh the costs. Taking a few minutes in the morning and the evening to brush your teeth gives you fresher breath and fewer cavities. Fresh breath improves your social life, and having fewer cavities lowers your dental bills. Taking care of your teeth may reduce oral pain, enhance your smile, and reduce your chance of losing teeth as you age. For regular brushers, the cost of a few minutes each day is worth the benefits of healthy teeth and gums.
Now consider a health behavior change that you’ve wanted to make but haven’t quite attempted. What’s keeping you from making that change? Perhaps you’ve been meaning to start flossing your teeth. You know
the benefits of flossing your teeth, and your dental hygienist recommended that you floss daily, but you haven’t started. The cost of flossing is a little higher than the cost of brushing your teeth: it tacks on a few extra minutes to your teeth-brushing regimen. Plus you may have to put up with bleeding and sore gums at first.
While the benefits are similar to brushing, you may not be convinced it’s necessary to maintain dental health. If you aren’t currently flossing regularly, it’s likely you don’t think the benefits outweigh the costs, or maybe you haven’t given it much thought. What would motivate you to make that change? Consider this question as we explore the complexities of making a behavior change.


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