The Psychology behind creating an alcohol-free life: Understanding the journey of behaviour change, by Ali Roff, editor-at-large at Psychologies magazine - One Year No Beer
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It turns out that when we make a behaviour change, say… switching those glasses of wine after a long day at work, for mugs of herbal tea, we need to move through a series of stages. So, when it comes to taking that step towards making a big change like starting an alcohol-free lifestyle, understanding the psychology behind the journey we go on can be the difference between success and failure of our goal.

The Transtheoretical Model* recognises that change is a process that evolves over time, in which progress can be documented during a series of stages, which are:

  1. Precontemplation – Not even thinking about making a change. We’ve all been here, where we continued with our behaviour, not thinking that a change needed to happen. We have to be here to begin.
  2. Contemplation – Thinking about changing behaviour, but not yet ready to act on it. Perhaps we found ourselves here feeling ill during a hangover, looking at our bank account after a heavy month, or just feeling anxious and wondering if it could be linked to the few glasses of wine we had last night. You might be here now, and it’s this contemplation that’s brought you to this blog, in which case, these before and after photos are pretty motivating
  3. Preparation – Putting steps in place in order to make changes. So here we are, beginning to look into how you might make the changes you want to change. You might be looking at the 28-day challenge, or even the 90-day or 365-day challenge. You might just want to read a few more blog posts here, read testimonials and see how others have done it…
  4. Action – A challenging time when fragile habits are being formed. A time to get support, from family members, friends, a coach, or organisations like OYNB which send a daily email and access to a wonderfully supportive facebook group, where one participant wrote this week “Each morning I look for the OYNB email leading with the day count and I take an inner bow. Feels good. Every day is an achievement.”. This is a time to celebrate the small wins and be kind to yourself whilst create new seedling habits.
  5. Maintenance – Habits have grown roots and the new behaviour becomes easier to follow. It might be that we always have to keep the new habits that support our behaviour change healthy with maintenance, we could even relapse, but the changes have grown roots and are not as easy to break in this stage.

It’s also interesting to note that while we can often move through this model in a linear fashion, it’s also possible, if not common, to go through the stages in a different order, cycle back through them after a relapse, or simply move back down the model and start again from any particular point. The important thing to remember, it’s all normal, and we’re all in it together.

So, where are you?

Now you know the process, can you see how and where your journey could take you? Changing any behaviour is a brave thing to do, but understanding the steps of the journey can make us a little more confident when it comes to embarking on it…

*Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992

 

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