Motivation for change is as individual as you

Motivation for change is as individual as you

2017 has dawned and the press and TV schedules are stuffed with fad diets to help us recover from the festive excess.

The government too has taken the opportunity to tell people to be healthier and stop the diabetes epidemic in its tracks. The chief medical officer has chastised the middle-aged for being overweight and drinking too much. We’re told our children could be using their daily sugar allowance at breakfast; that office cake and biscuit culture is slowly killing us.

At the same time doctors’ organisations have warned against the dangers of radical detox, while confidently predicting that many thousands more will take on the challenge of Dry January – but please don’t attempt this if you have a dependency issue.

It’s day four of the New Year and the health advice is overwhelming – today comes the recommendation to boost our first aid skills in case we fall victim to a terror attack. Could someone please pass the cake?

In the face of such an overwhelming array of advice the temptation to do nothing is great. Yet people are offered more and more tools to help on the path to wellness.


Tools to change

The One You quiz – motivational interviewing lite – offers users a drinks tracker app, a healthy eating app, a quit smoking app. Dry January also offers an app and fitness trackers were on the Christmas best seller list.

So there is more “support” than ever before – but do people really need an “app for that” or are the secrets of motivating behaviour change more mundane and down to earth? Do we actually need to log our dinks to know we are drinking or to count our steps to know we’ve walked the dog for half an hour in the morning? Or do people simply need the time to walk, or run and the permission to step away from the keyboard or touch screen?

As professionals we surely know by now that people’s relationships with food and alcohol are complex and modern lives that revolve around a sedentary use of technology at work and play are part of the problem rather than the solution.

An interesting story during the Christmas period was the ‘right to disconnect’ awarded to French workers from 1 January. The measure is intended to tackle the so-called “always-on” work culture and the info-overload blighting lives.

Measures being considered by employers include cutting email connections in the evening and weekends and destroying emails automatically sent to employees while they are on holiday.

“Always on” at work and play is helping to thicken our waists, deplete our sleep and eat into the free time that could be used for more active recreation with family and friends (four-legged or otherwise), according to our European neighbours.

Many people will be starting the New Year with good intentions. There’s no doubt in this office we are all keen to shed a few pounds and return to healthier habits abandoned for the annual feast.


Desire v capacity

Ultimately it is not people’s desire to change that is important but the psychological capacity to make the change and stick to it in a time-poor society that seems increasingly at odds with a healthy lifestyle.

The mass-marketed sugary and alcoholic treats provide comfort against the stresses of modern life but combine to produce guilt about unwise ‘choices’ and the unhealthy consequences.

My moderate 5-6 glasses of wine a week is not good enough for “One You” but actually its OK for me.

Asking people to make changes they don’t want to commit to will fail – identifying people’s motivation to change and the change they want to make is the key. A ‘One You’ success story lost weight because his child told him he “loved him even though he was fat”.

It’s disturbing if children equate fat with unlovable, but wanting to get fit for his family provided the motivation for this individual. Each person’s motivation for change is as individual as they are.


Finding motivation

The psychological secrets that make this motivation to change become transformative are fivefold:

  • Persistence; accepting that relapsing into old habits at Christmas is OK so long as you nip it on the bud come January.
  • Setting achievable goals for those you are supporting to help build confidence towards bigger, tougher targets going forward.
  • Seeking the support from family and friends who will help support your patients towards their goals.
  • Helping people understand the triggers that have them reaching for the tin (beer or biscuit)
  • Finding ways to plot progress and reward success.

This sounds simple but it’s actually really hard. It requires a change in the way healthcare professionals interact with patients. It means resisting the righting reflex to “fix” a problem by allowing people to identify their own concerns.

It means really listening and supporting people to set their own targets (not necessarily those of the NHS) and achieve them at a pace that is right for them, their lifestyle and the limitations imposed by the health conditions they live with.

Like all things in healthcare there are evidenced-based skills that can be acquired to help support this effective practice, where health professionals act as a supportive partner rather than a dictator of change.

This month sees the launch of our RCN-accredited Motivational Interviewing Training. This has been designed to up-skill nurses in techniques proven to support behaviour change, helping empower patients to make the right choices.

The techniques are simple to learn and produce results – substance misusers are two times as likely to remain abstinent when MI techniques are used. Most importantly MI can be used in any situation where people need support to make a change for better health.

To find out more about Motivational Interviewing training programmes contact Oyster on 01273 601996 or click here


Published on: January 4, 2017