Introduction to Lifestyle and Behavior Change

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-diyhl-journalcover-wp-img-240x345

Talk of lifestyle and behavior change is scary for a lot of people.

There may come a time when the realization hits that the only way to feel better is to become aware of your health behavior and move toward changing your lifestyle.

That’s what happened to me when I developed fibromyalgia. I’d been caught on a merry-go-round of prescription medications and physical therapy that would work for a while and then have no effect at all.

After about four years of this, I said “ENOUGH!” and decided to undertake some research and create my own treatment plan.

Fortunately at that time, a new physician’s assistant arrived at my clinic and I was just able to get in as the last of his quota of patients. He was the first practitioner I’d met who believed in natural healing and he supported my do-it-yourself wellness plan.

The more I learned and practiced, the better I began to feel. After awhile, it was wonderful to start feeling “normal” again that I wanted to keep it going.

Starting a lifestyle and behavior change plan can be hard but it does get easier with every success you achieve.

In this section, I’ll explain what I’ve learned about lifestyle and behavior change. It’s not as scary as it seems and surprisingly easier than you might think.

Making Lifestyle Change Easier

Discussions of lifestyle and behavior change can sound complicated, but these topics are so important to the entire DIY Healthy Lifestyles program that this is the first of the “5 Essentials for Healthy Lifestyles.”

Nothing else can happen until you understand lifestyle and behavior change.

My goal for this section is to try to explain behavioral psychology in a way that everyone can understand.

By the way, if there’s ever anything you have a question about in this section or any of the others, click this link to Raise Your Hand and ask. Don’t be afraid because “the only stupid questions are the ones you don’t ask.” That quote was posted by a Facebook friend who said a high school teacher of hers used to say it. I thought it was cool so I stole it to use here.

Health Behavior Explained

Health Behavior is defined as “the actions we take to keep ourselves healthy” like eating right and exercising. It can also refer to negative actions that harm our health, such as smoking cigarettes or eating too many high-calorie foods on a regular basis.

Our health behavior is formed by beliefs, values, motives, personality traits, behavior patterns, and habits as they relate to health. Here’s a very simplified explanation of how health behavior is formed:

It begins as children when we’re told that fruit and vegetables are good for us and that candy is bad for us. But, as children will, we decided that most vegetables didn’t taste so good and that candy did.

As we grew older, that belief may have stayed with us and it turned into the idea that anything that we were told was good for us tasted awful and whatever was bad tasted great.

That’s why as adults, we often balk at trying out health foods. We’ve prepared our minds from childhood to believe that healthy food tastes bad and junk food is great.  

Do you see how that works? As children, we form the beliefs that drive our health behavior for years to come. The behavior we formed from the belief that junk food tastes better is what lies behind our troubles today with overweight, fatigue, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other ailments. Many people are reluctant to change their diets because of the popular belief that “all health food tastes like cardboard”. This is a very common complaint that I hear whenever I talk about lifestyle change.  

I agree–there is a lot of cardboard out there, and styrofoam too (think rice cakes).

When I started venturing into a whole foods diet, I tasted a lot of very bad stuff. My belief is that food manufacturers tried to jump on the “health food” bandwagon without really knowing much about whole food nutrition.

They figured they could just make the same stuff the way they’d always made it but remove the fat, salt and sugar. And not replace it with a healthy alternative that would still make it taste good. Fortunately, health food manufacturing has advanced and now there are some great products out there.

In future lessons, you’ll learn the secrets of great-tasting health food. We’ll look at reviews of really good-tasting, pre-packaged foods you can find in almost any grocery store, plus recipes for making your own healthy foods at home.

You won’t believe you’re actually eating stuff that’s good for you! You’ll even learn not to miss sugar or salt–two of the biggest contributors to obesity, chronic pain and cardiovascular disease.

Behavior Change Models

Health behavior theories have been laid out in concise models, or simplified illustrations that show us how the theory works.

The DIY Health Lifestyles program taps into five behavior change models. (There’s that ‘five’ number again!) We’ll look into those models in detail in future sections. The discussion today is to make the term “behavior change” sound less scary and complicated.

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this, you’re interested in making lifestyle changes. I’m also going to assume that you’ve read books and articles, watched videos or tried different programs but they were too hard to understand, too complicated to follow, or they just didn’t seem to work. That’s what most of the people who join the Center say when asked what they’ve done before.

The reason why so many wellness plans and programs don’t seem to work is that many don’t address health behavior or health beliefs.

They don’t ask about your personal reasons for wanting to change or the beliefs you have about your ability to make changes. They just tell you that you have to do this and eat that without helping you find out why you balk at doing what they want.

Learning a little about health behavior helps you discover why something doesn’t work for you or what you can do to make it work.

It can help you see where your beliefs and feelings about what is or isn’t good for you come from. It can help you learn how you can change beliefs that have been working against your health.

An understanding of health behavior and behavior change models goes a very, very long way toward helping you overcome past “failures” and succeed in finally making lasting changes.  


Do You Suffer from Excessive Stuff Syndrome?

It is guesstimated that nearly 48.9% of the U. S. population suffers from this condition!

WHAT IS ESS?

Excessive Stuff Syndrome (ESS) is a debilitating syndrome that has been known to cause mild to severe anxiety, elevated stress levels, and a sense of overwhelm and despair.

WHO DOES IT AFFECT?

It is estimated that nearly 48.9 percent of the U. S. population suffers from ESS, more than half female aged 40 to 80+. Common contributing factors for developing this syndrome include:

  • Strong desire for creativity
  • Interest in arts, crafts, or special hobbies
  • A love of reading and learning new things
  • Special interest in collecting
  • Underdeveloped or non-existent storage and organization skills

HOW DOES ESS DEVELOP?

ESS often begins in childhood with the onset of SSS or Saving Special Stuff, typically in small-to-medium sized containers or special drawers.

Those afflicted by SSS experience strong tendencies to save things that interest them, based upon one or more of the contributing factors listed above:

  • Books about interests (common to all forms of SSS)
  • Post cards
  • Mail advertising packets
  • Postage stamps
  • Magazine photos
  • Badges and buttons
  • Magnetic cards to stick on fridge or file cabinet
  • Keychains from trade or home shows
  • Notebooks
  • Calendars
  • Any items containing attractive visual representations of the interest focus.

HOW DOES ESS MANIFEST?

As children grow, so too do their interests. Often, growth and expansion of the interest will lead to the next stage of development, SSNS or Saving of New Stuff. The further the syndrome develops, the more precise, sophisticated, and necessary the Required Stuff becomes.

The books become larger or more accumulated and here now may be subscriptions to magazines that must be saved. Posters and charts become valuable and cherished.

Friends and family members, often unknowingly, enable the development of SSNS through gifts of activity kits or implement sets. Once the activity is adopted, there follows a need for more supplies and implements.

Other Contributing Factors to ESS

SSNS can also develop from interests that necessitate the need for special clothing such as uniforms, costumes,  identity apparel (special clothing for meetings or events), footwear, head gear, and equipment. As the child grows, the need for larger spaces in which to store it all increases.

If the contributing factor of a love for reading and learning is involved, there may be the added tendency toward accumulation of:

  • More books
  • Magazine subscriptions (as noted above)
  • Mail-order kits and learning programs
  • Notebooks
  • Binders or scrapbooks for collecting loose pages, instruction booklets, and clippings from magazines and newspapers.

HOW SSS and SSNS DEVELOPS INTO ESS

The leading contributor to ESS is the attachment to keeping the things collected from the onset of SSS into adulthood.

A primary triggering factor of ESS begins to emerge in the teen years, from about ages 15 to 21. This is the time when teens begin to consider moving away from home to attend college, go to work, or explore their options. It is a time when one must consider what they will take with them and what can be parted with.

This is also the time when the patient becomes highly susceptible to the  triggering factor of ESS known as TIIS or This Is Important Stuff.

The main symptom of TIIS is an inability to discern the Truly Important from the Possibly Unimportant. The patient may begin to experience feelings of great attachment to the Special Stuff Saved from the blossoming of their special interests as a child.

That first activity kit project becomes symbolic of their life-long love of their interest of choice. The young adult feels a great need to keep this object either on display or in a place of safekeeping.

There may be collections of instructions and how-to clippings still to be tried out that cannot be parted with yet. There may still be activity kits not yet assembled. There are still things to be explored.

HOW ESS ESTABLISHES ITSELF

The TIIS factor plays a large part in the decision-making process that arises out of the SSS and SSNS phases. Each and every item, piece, part, document and scrap must be put through the TIIS test. Is This Important Stuff or Is It Not?

The more the interest has established itself in the young person’s mind, the more difficult it becomes to determine Important from Not Important Stuff. Typically, the patient undergoes such stress and sense of turmoil that a decision is made: This is ALL Important Stuff.

All the Important Stuff is then boxed up and moved to the new location, and often, to new subsequent locations.

It is at this point that a definite diagnoses of Excess Stuff Syndrome can be made.

HOW IS ESS TREATED?

There is no known cure for ESS. Treatment can include Resolve Development where the patient decides to close the eyes and toss things out, or seek the help of a trusted friend to support this treatment.

Another form of treatment is to develop the skill of Storage and Organization.  which can be both a solution and the trigger for a secondary from of ESS known as CSC, or the Collection of Storage Containers.

CSC can mask the manifestation of ESS by creating a false sense of control by appearing to have organized and controlled the spread of ESS by having a Place For Everything, and Everything In Its Place. This can lead to an aggravation of the original trigger of SSS (Saving Special Stuff), which in turn exacerbates CSC. This can develop into a self-perpetuating and chronic ESS condition.

Chronic ESS can be a very debilitating condition. It can develop into an actual behavioral health diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder manifesting as a condition known as Hoarding.

This could ultimately require Professional Psychological Treatment if your ESS goes beyond this tongue-in-cheek article describing the condition in a  light-hearted manner. (See Disclaimer below).

OTHER SUGGESTED TREATMENTS

With that in mind, there are other milder treatments that really could be applied in less serious cases of ESS:

  • Scanning paper documents and photographing childhood projects and saving them to computer, discs, jump drives or cloud drives
  • Building and dedicating a small museum or section in your local public library or community center devoted to your interest for the education of friends, neighbors, and future generations
  • Donating your collection to a youth group or club
  • Cashing in on your stash by offering it for sale at an online sales website
  • Holding a special garage sale for others interested in your stuff

These treatments could trigger one beneficial side-effect. Seeing your Special Stuff going to people who will greatly appreciate it and give it a good home can bring about positive results, and possibly even cure your ESS.

PROFESSIONALLY-SUGGESTED TREATMENTS

There are also some mind and brain balancing techniques that can help:

  • Mindfulness Meditation
  • Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also called ‘Tapping’
  • Support Groups and Talk Therapy – explore your thoughts about your  stuff and its meaning with others who have ESS
  • Home Organization Coaching
  • Journal Writing Therapy – working out your thoughts about ‘stuff’

The last one has worked well for this article’s author. It was an ESS near-meltdown during a studio organization session that sparked the article. Writing it out led to the list of suggestions for help with this insidious syndrome, and possibilities for its treatment if not a permanent cure.

If you suffer from ESS or its trigger or secondary conditions of SSS, SSNS, TIIS, or CSC, try out some of the suggested treatments to see if they help.

DISCLAIMER:

This article is not intended to diagnose or suggest treatment for OCD or any other related disorders, nor is it intended to belittle or ridicule such disorders. The “conditions” described above are not real conditions but developed out of the author’s imagination.

This article is strictly intended as satire and actually pokes fun at the author herself. Suggested treatments are based upon the author’s research into mind-body healing techniques that can help to deal with the issues of Saving Special Stuff and Excessive Stuff Syndrome.

Review This Article–Leave a Comment-Ask a Question

If you enjoyed this article, learned something from it, or have any comments or questions, please share them below: