Self Compassion

It is the time a year for resolutions!  When setting a resolution, it is easy to be self-critical instead of noticing ourselves for the good and the areas that may need some improvement.  I recently read a positive psychology-based article about self-compassion and how to notice our imperfections without criticizing ourselves.

Self-compassion is the idea that we provide ourselves with kindness and understanding when doing a self-evaluation.  Self-compassion is the ability to allow yourself to make mistakes so that you can learn and grow from them.  Being imperfect is a part of the human condition, even if it seems that some people are flawless.  Accepting your faults gives you the ability to address them if that is what you choose or embrace as a part of you.  Most important thing is that you move through the issues instead of defending or attacking yourself. 

Here are some steps on how to become more self-compassionate:

1.            Forgive yourself: mistakes are a part of being human, pick yourself up, adjust if needed and try again.

2.            Don’t compare: accept your weakness not because you approve of them, we are all a work in progress.

3.            Gratitude: don’t focus on what you want but what you currently have.  The small things are what make the big picture beautiful.

4.            Generous:  Make sure your needs are met before giving to others.  If you are always taking of others and not focusing on your own needs there is a danger of burning yourself out.  Take the time to refill yourself of happiness so you have strength to help others when needed. 

4.            Mindful:  take a step back, see what is happening in the here and now, recognize how your reacting to the situation.  Commuting is my least favorite part of the day but I am wasting a portion of my life wishing I was somewhere else.  It would be more mindful to take steps to make my commute more enjoyable.

By Sara Hollis, MA, LCPC – – (262) 729-9747 –

Exercise To The Rescue

One of the most holistic solutions within our control for managing & reducing depression & anxiety is exercise.  A new study published in a recent Forbes article states “…research analysis suggests that moderate aerobic exercise may be one of the most effective approaches available for treating major depression.  It’s the latest in a convincing docket of research showing that exercise, perhaps more than any other single method, can serve as a curb against a tenacious condition that affects millions, with tens of thousands of new patient added every year.”   

Wow – exercise helps “more than any other single method”!  Participants in the referenced study did about 45 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for a little over nine weeks.  The types of exercises included walking, biking, swimming and jogging & team sports.  The results showed “a large and significant antidepressant effect from aerobic exercise on par with or even surpassing typical results for antidepressant medications.”

Best results were achieved with about 45 minutes a workout session, three to five times per week.  Measured health benefits of regular exercise – strengthened mental, physical, emotional, social, personal & professional health & functioning:

Sounds great, right, sign me up…but where do we get started if we’re not already physically active but believe in the benefits of doing so?  A few tips to help get started…

  • Make your health a priority. Find the time to work out.  Start small & don’t quit.  Put it on the calendar & challenge the reasons why you don’t want to follow through.
  • Dig deep on your motivation for wanting to exercise more – why specifically is it that you want to make this time for your health & prioritize your self-care?  How will your life be improved?
  • Little things make a big difference.  Just get started doing something, somehow, someway more days than not.
  • Set short & long term goals & take things one day at a time.  One daily push-up is better than none!
  • Buddy up! Find a personal or professional partner to help motivate you & keep you accountable to staying committed to a regular workout routine.  An added benefit to exercising with a partner is social interaction which is also a very holistic way to help manage stress & treat anxiety & depression.
  • Be kind to yourself & enjoy the journey. Breathe – meditate – stretch…get outside & enjoy life & nature if you can.
  • Do what you can, when you can, how you can.  Meet yourself where you are at each & every day & if nothing else just do one small thing to be happy & healthy & care for your mind, body & soul today.

Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC – Foundations Owner & Clinical Counselor –


Mindful Eating In 2018

Happy New Year everyone!  Being it is the start of a brand new year, I know many people are looking for new ways to strengthen their health & well being in 2018 and losing weight & eating healthier are likely at the top of that goal list.

Mindful Eating is a healthy living strategy that is clinically proven to help people gain control over their eating habits which can lead to reduced stress, improved mental focus, weight loss & many health other benefits, including:

  1. You learn to eat when you’re hungry, and stop when you’re sated.
  2. You learn to really taste food, and to enjoy the taste of healthy food.
  3. You slowly start to realize that unhealthy food isn’t as tasty as you thought, nor does it make you feel very good.
  4. As a result of the above three points, you will often lose weight if you’re overweight.
  5. You begin to sort through the emotional issues you have around food and eating. This takes a bit longer, but it’s important.
  6. Social overeating can become less of a problem — you can eat mindfully while socializing, with practice, and not overeat.
  7. You begin to enjoy the eating experience more, and as a result enjoy life more, when you’re more present.
  8. It can become a mindfulness ritual you look forward to.
  9. You learn how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day.
  10. You learn what food best fuels your exercise and work and play.

So how does Mindful Eating work?  You start by practicing Mindfulness – learning to be in the present moment while you are eating, fully attending to what you are eating, where you are eating, how you are are eating.  Easier said then done in today’s busy world I know, but if you want something different you must be willing to try something different – so think of this in terms of working smarter not harder & see what you can do to start incorporating a couple of these ‘8 Steps to Mindful Eating’ by Harvard Health into your life:

1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.

2. Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.

3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.

4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.

5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.

6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.

7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.

8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.

What possibilities lie ahead in 2018 for you?!?  What is stopping you from making this your best year yet?  One small step in the right direction is all you need to get started.

For more health & life wellness tips follow us on Facebook!





What Is Your Happiness Level?

On a scale of 1 to 10 how happy & fulfilled are you currently with your life?  1 being the worst you’ve ever been & 10 being you are thriving & living your best life…what is your level of life satisfaction & happiness at this time?

If your number is an 8, 9 or 10, rinse & repeat on whatever you are doing because it sounds like you are living well!  If your number isn’t currently an 8, 9 or 10, reflect on the last time in your life you felt happy & fulfilled & think about what was going on at the time – what were you doing or not doing?  What can you do to bring some of that success and meaning back into your life?

If you would like to feel healthier, happier & more fulfilled then ask yourself what are the barriers to success to making that happen?  What actions steps could you take to be happier on regular basis?

A recent article on happiness in Business Insider reports that research shows we can do a lot to create our own happiness.

“40% of our happiness is under our own control.  The rest is determined by genetics & external factors.  That means there’s a lot we can do to control our own happiness.”

Here are nine happiness-promoting behaviors backed by science:

  1. Relationships are essential. A major study followed hundreds of men for more than 70 years, and found the happiest (and healthiest) were those who cultivated strong relationships with people they trusted to support them.
  2. Time beats money. A number of studies have shown that happier people prefer to have more time in their lives than more money. Even trying to approach life from that mindset seems to make people more content.
  3. But it helps to have enough money to pay the bills. People’s well-being rises along with income levels up to an annual salary of about $75,000, studies have found. (That number probably varies depending on your cost of living, however.)
  4. It’s worth stopping to smell the roses. People who slow down to reflect on good things in their lives report being more satisfied.
  5. Acts of kindness boost the mood. Give your friends a ride to the airport or spend an afternoon volunteering. Some research has shown that people who perform such acts report being happier.
  6. Breaking a sweat is about more than burning calories. Studies show that increased levels of physical activity are connected to higher levels of happiness. Exercise tends to help mitigate the symptoms of some mental illnesses as well.
  7. Fun is more valuable than material items. People tend to be happier if they spend their money on experiences instead of things. Researchers have also found that buying things that allow you to have experiences — like rock climbing shoes or a new book to read — can also increase happiness.
  8. It helps to stay in the present in the moment. Several studies have found that people who practice mindfulness meditation experience greater well-being.
  9. Time with friends is time well spent. Interactions with casual friends can make people happier, and close friendships — especially with happy people — can have a powerful effect on your own happiness as well.

If you would like to be happier, healthier or more fulfilled in your life in 2018 & you are not sure how to get there, give us a call at Foundations Counseling Center & we can help get you started in the right direction.

Lori Corrigan, MA, LCPC – 847-497-0524


Your Environmental Health Matters



Mental Health Association SAMHSA describes wellness as being in both good physical and mental health:  “Because mental health and physical health are linked, problems in one area can impact the other. At the same time, improving your physical health can also benefit your mental health, and vice versa. It is important to make healthy choices for both your physical and mental well-being.”  SAMHSA breaks down overall health & wellbeing into Eight Dimensions Of Wellness:

  1. Emotional—Coping effectively with life and creating satisfying relationships
  2. Environmental—Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being
  3. Financial—Satisfaction with current and future financial situations
  4. Intellectual—Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills
  5. Occupational—Personal satisfaction and enrichment from one’s work
  6. Physical—Recognizing the need for physical activity, healthy foods, and sleep
  7. Social—Developing a sense of connection, belonging, and a well-developed support system
  8. Spiritual—Expanding a sense of purpose and meaning in life

As a counselor who has been helping people strengthen their life wellness for 20 years, I regularly talk with my clients about the importance of fostering each & every one of those different aspects of their lives.  The one area of focus I would like to highlight here today is your environmental health – your personal & professional environment.

Where we live, work & play greatly influences our health & wellbeing.  High-stress, toxic, dangerous, unsupportive & uninspiring personal & professional environments can take a toll on our mental, physical, emotional, social & occupational health.  It can overwhelm & bring us down, make us chronically unhappy, keep our lives stuck & unfulfilled & can even make us physically sick.

Dan Buettner, National Geographic Explorer & best-selling author of The Blue Zones of Happiness, has studied the longevity of people living around the globe & has collected myriad data regarding common factors that help cultivate long-term health & happiness in life.  In a recent National Geographic article by George Stone regarding The Happiest Cities In The United States some of Buettner’s research is discussed:  “ for scientists studying the roots & fruits of happiness, location-specific qualities of place, community, and opportunity powerfully inform the way we feel about our lives”.  The article goes on to say that social scientists have come up with 15 metrics “from eating healthy and learning something new every day to civic engagement, financial security, vacation time, and even dental checkups – that signal happiness.

So if where you are living or working or going to school or spending your spare time is not a healthy environment that supports good health & overall well being, then it’s important to consider what you can do to make changes.  No doubt, easier said than done sometimes to make life changes… and also doable with hard work, strong motivation, determination, a can do attitude, a growth mindset & a realistic & time-framed plan.

In the late 1990’s when I was a newbie to the helping profession I attended a motivational seminar where the speaker asked her audience two very profound & life impacting questions…she asked us what we would you do if we knew we only had a short period of time (1 month, 6 months, 1 year) to live.  She wanted to know exactly how we would change our lives to do what we could to ensure our final days on this planet would be the best they could be.

Hands went up all over the room with people begging to say what they would do if they knew their time was short.  I would quit my job, I would go on vacation with my family, I would move to a warmer climate…so many people verbalized with great excitement what they were willing to do to make their final time on this planet the best it could be.

After people responded loudly & clearly to the speakers thought-provoking question she then asked one final question that has stuck with me ever since & continues to impact me every single day…she asked us how did we know we didn’t have only a short period of time to live.  She went on to say what all of us likely know but may not acknowledge in daily life…none of us know how much time we have to live our lives.  None of us know when our life as we know it in this current shape & form will come to an end.  Today is all we truly have & tomorrow is promised to no one.  We can’t change the past, all we can do is do the best we can today & hope that we are granted the opportunity to move forward & live another day tomorrow.

If you are living in a difficult, challenging, unhealthy, unsupported, unfulfilling, dangerous environment & you believe your life is worth making the effort to change then put a plan in place to make those changes that will make you healthier, happier, more fulfilled & safe.  Anything is possible with the right mindset & there is support out there in the form of counselors, life coaches & mentors if you need it.

Strength, hope, peace & light to all.  Believe!

How You Living?

How you living?  I watched a very powerful inspirational video recently by minister & motivational speaker Dr Rick Rigsby that highlighted the importance of asking ourselves this important question early & often.

Life is busy & sometimes we live our day to day routine attending to the commitments of family, friends, school, work, community, etc. on autopilot.  We navigate through the daily, weekly, monthly journey of life, but often times we are going through the motions not really knowing or understanding what the impact is on our life as a whole.  How often do we check in with ourselves & assess how we are doing – truly doing?

Personally, professionally, mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually…where are you at in your life?  How are you living?  What do you think about your life?  How do you feel about it?  Are you largely happy or unhappy?  Fulfilled or unfulfilled?  Stressed or overwhelmed?  Healthy or unhealthy?

There are many different aspects of our lives that make up our whole self & often times one or more of those individual components are not as great as we would like them to be.  We don’t always realize the negative impact a lack of health & happiness in one or two areas of our life is having on our life as a whole.

So what can we do to cultivate greater understanding & awareness for the quality vs quantify of our lives?  One answer is to pay closer attention to our physical well being as our bodies are a strong indicator of overall life wellness.  Our bodies can provide a lot of information about the many different aspects of our life & health if we take the time to pay attention.  Headaches, stomachaches, skin problems, high blood pressure, back pain can all be indicators that chronic unmanaged stress or fear or hurt or anger about something is negatively affecting the quality of our life.

A recent article by MindBodyGreen states “80% of visits to primary care physicians are due to symptoms ultimately caused by stress or emotional problems”.  In the counseling profession that is known as a psychosomatic disorder which is physical ailments that are caused by emotional or psychological factors vs a medical illness.

It is the mind-body connection.  There is an actual physiological process that our bodies go through when we are overwhelmed, stressed, or experiencing difficult emotions. When we are fearful, angry, sad or chronically worried our brain’s limbic system – which supports a variety of functions such as emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory – gets activated & sends out chemicals like adrenaline & cortisol that suppress our immune system & make us vulnerable to illness & infection.  During those times our bodies are susceptible to increased inflammation, autoimmune & stomach problems, irritable bowel issues, colds & flu, higher blood pressure, sore muscles & irritable behavior.

So if you check in with yourself & notice that you haven’t been feeling particularly well & those symptoms are not otherwise accountable by a medical diagnosis, then there is a good chance that chronic stress or challenging thoughts & emotions are the cause.

The good news is there is something we can do something about it!  The first step is to become aware so check in with yourself early & often to know how you are truly living & feeling.  Next, take a few deep breaths & try to really understand what is going on – what are you thinking or feeling & how are you behaving?  Are you having a hard time focusing or thinking about things but don’t know how to say them?  Are you feeling a particular way about something but not letting others know how you feel?   Ask yourself what is important to you in your life & what you would like to do to achieve your hopes & dreams.

Seek to understand what your body is trying to tell you & figure out what you would like to do about it.  The only thing we have control over in life is ourselves as individuals so if we want to be happy & fulfilled then we must take personal responsibility for making that happen & work to change the direction of our lives if need be.

If you realize there are things in your life that are overwhelming or unsatisfying & don’t know how to solve those problems, then consultation with a counseling professional may be a great step in the right direction to help you make the changes that will bring you closer to the life you truly desire.

Peace & good health to all.


September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

I was talking with a neighbor of mine this morning about the recent tragic passing of a young local school teacher by suicide.  My condolences to the family, friends, colleagues, students, parents & community members who have been affected by this sudden loss – may peace and strength be yours as you mourn.

We cannot change what has happened but what we can do is learn & take action toward solutions moving forward.  So today, tomorrow & the next day let us find ways to talk more openly about what it’s like to experience mental illness & what we can do when ourselves or someone we know is feeling depressed, hopeless or feeling that life is no longer worth living.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that more than 41,000 individuals die by suicide each year and can affect anyone:

Suicidal thoughts, much like mental health conditions, can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background. In fact, suicide is often the result of an untreated mental health condition. Suicidal thoughts, although common, should not be considered normal and often indicate more serious issues.

The shame & stigma attached to mental health issues & suicide often prevent those who are suffering mentally & emotionally from talking to someone or seeking help for their pain.  The creation of September’s  #SuicidePreventionMonth is designed to change that by:

  • Sharing resources & stories in an effort to shed light on these highly taboo and stigmatized topics
  • Reaching out to those affected by suicide
  • Raising awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services
  • Ensuring that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention
  • Giving people tools, resources & avenues to help when they need it most

What can I, you, we do to help?

  1. Know about crisis resources.  If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.  If you or someone you know are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the #NationalSuicideHotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255) immediately.  If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
  2. Know the warning signs for suicide:
    • Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here” but can become more overt and dangerous
    • Increased alcohol and drug use
    • Aggressive behavior
    • Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
    • Dramatic mood swings
    • Talking, writing or thinking about death
    • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  3. Assess for imminent danger.  Any person exhibiting these behaviors should get care immediately:
    • Putting their affairs in order and giving away their possessions
    • Saying goodbye to friends and family
    • Mood shifts from despair to calm
    • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication
  4. Know the risk factors for suicide.  Research has found that about 90% of individuals who die by suicide experience mental illness. A number of other things may put a person at risk of suicide, including:
    • A family history of suicide.
    • Substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can result in mental highs and lows that exacerbate suicidal thoughts.
    • Intoxication. More than one in three people who die from suicide are found to be currently under the influence.
    • Access to firearms.
    • A serious or chronic medical illness.
    • Gender. Although more women than men attempt suicide, men are four times more likely to die by suicide.
    • A history of trauma or abuse.
    • Prolonged stress.
    • Isolation.
    • Age. People under age 24 or above age 65 are at a higher risk for suicide.
    • A recent tragedy or loss.
    • Agitation and sleep deprivation.
  5. Know that mental health issues including anxiety, depression & mood disorders are treatable & suicide is preventable.  We need to be able to identify & talk about what is happening in our lives when we are not feeling well mentally & emotionally & ensure that everyone has access to the support & treatment they need.
  6. Take action when you notice people are not themselves, behaving differently, seem sad, hopeless, depressed:
    • Ask if they are OK
    • Practice reflective listening.  Provide empathy & understanding & reflect emotion.
    • Don’t judge
    • Let them know they are not alone
    • Connect them to a counselor or mental health professional.  Mental health professionals are trained to help a person understand their feelings and can improve mental wellness and resiliency.  Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, can help a person with thoughts of suicide recognize unhealthy patterns of thinking and behavior, validate troubling feelings, and learn coping skills.
    • Build hope.  Breathe.  Slow things down.  Try & get through life’s challenges one minute, one hour, one day at at time…together.


Gratitude For Health & Happiness

A simple expression of gratitude can immediately lift the health & happiness of yourself and those around you.  Regularly being thankful for the good things, no matter how big or small, can strengthen your health in so many different ways – mentally, physically, emotionally, socially, occupationally, intellectually.

When we find things each & every day to be grateful for – start with food, water & shelter if you are lucky to have & count your blessings from there – we can experience scientifically proven health benefits including:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved physical health
  • Strengthened coping skills & mental focus
  • Reduced and managed stress
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced self esteem

Here is a list of 100 ways to be grateful this holiday season:

100 Ways to Be Grateful During the Holidays

A few of our favorites:

  • Think about how many holiday seasons you’ve experienced. Every one of them is a gift. Be happy that you’re alive!
  • Spend time with friends and make new memories.
  • Make a list of things you’re thankful for.
  • Create a vision board.
  • Write someone a letter to tell someone how amazing they are.
  • Start writing in a journal; make sure to end each entry on a positive note.
  • Speak with kindness and be compassionate.
  • Give hugs—lots of hugs.
  • Send a friend an inspirational text message to help them through a long day.
  • Donate to a good cause.
  • Do what you love.
  • Notice the small things in life.
  • Make it a priority to always say “thank you.”
  • Make a list of people you’re thankful for.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • Be mindful.
  • Stay active.
  • Love yourself.
  • Appreciate every moment.

We at Foundations Counseling Center are beyond grateful & thankful for all that is good on the planet near & far this holiday season!  May each & every one of you be healthy & blessed.  Peace to all!!

Lori Corrigan

Use Mindfulness To Help Manage Holiday Stress


Heart-shaped candle in her hands
Are you Mindful or MindFULL this holiday season?

The holidays can be an extra busy time of year for many – how can Mindfulness help you, your family, your business to not only manage the stress of the season but THRIVE going into the new year?  Here are ‘5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress’ by

5 Mindful Tips for Navigating Holiday Stress

1) Demands on Time.  Tip:  Treat yourself!  You do not need to say yes to everything. Giving and giving without stopping is not an altruistic notion. It is important to be mindful of when we might need refueling and to allow that to happen. Self-care can mean many things, but it can be as simple as a night to ourselves that includes a bath and a good meal—cooked by someone else!

2) Loneliness During the Holidays.  Tip:  Donate your time to help the less fortunate.  The holidays are a particularly poignant time to practice the art of compassion, to think of others needs before our own. There is great opportunity to give to, and establish meaningful connections with, those who don’t have as many resources as we do. Giving doesn’t have to be monetary or a physical gift. Giving comes in many forms, including smiles, time, and emotional support.

3) Expectations of Perfection.  Tip:  Reflect on the meaning of the holidays.  It is hard to stop and smell the roses at any time of year, and it is especially easy to get caught up in the commercial version of what the holiday season means today. But taking the time to mindfully reflect on what matters, whether it be our religion or tradition, or even the healing power of love, helps us to keep our perspective as the year draws to a close.

4) The Indulge/Guilt Cycle.  Tip:  Take time to enjoy all the flavors of the holiday season.  There are five (A,B,C,D,E) basic ways to begin a mindful eating practice:

1. Ask

  • Why am I eating now?
  • What am I eating now?
  • What else am I doing now that may be distracting?

2. Be grateful
3. Chew, and then chew again
4. Dine (don’t just eat)
5. Engage your attention

5) Stress and Family Anxiety.  Tip:  Engage in gratitude.  Take the time to step back and bear witness to all that you have, to count your blessings, as they say. Gratitude goes a long way when it comes to overall wellness. During this time of year, a sense of gratitude can easily fall by the wayside as indulgence and the idea of “more” and “merrier” are front and center.  So, while in the midst of the tumult of the holiday season, try to re-center by consciously being grateful for the multiple aspects of this season, and our loved ones, that we are blessed to engage with.

Understanding Why We Change


Lasting behavior change is not something that comes easy for most of us humans – it takes time, patience, hard work, motivation, commitment.  The truth is, if you want something bad enough you are going to have to work for it, and the process of change starts with understanding how ready (aware & motivated) are you to do something different?

Psychology pioneers Dr. James Prochaska and Dr. Carlos DiClemente have proposed there are five Stages Of Change we go through when it comes to change:


and Psychology publication Very Well expands on the five-stages to include a sixth:

 1.  Pre-contemplation.  People in this stage are often described as “in denial” due to claims that their behavior is not a problem.  If you are in this stage, begin by asking yourself some questions:

  • Have you ever tried to change this behavior in the past?
  • How do you recognize that you have a problem?
  • What would have to happen for you to consider your behavior a problem?

2.  Contemplation.  During this stage, people become more and more aware of the potential benefits of making a change, but the costs tend to stand out even more. This conflict creates a strong sense of ambivalence about changing.  If you are contemplating a behavior change, there are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you want to change?
  • Is there anything preventing you from changing?
  • What are some things that could help you make this change?

3.  Preparation.  During the preparation stage, you might begin making small changes to prepare for a larger life change. For example, if losing weight is your goal, you might switch to lower-fat foods. If your goal is to quit smoking, you might switch brands or smoke less each day. You might also take some sort of direct action such as consulting a therapist, joining a health club, or reading self-help books.  If you are in the preparation stage, there are some steps you can take to improve your chances of successfully making a lasting life change:

  • Gather as much information as you can about ways to change your behavior.
  • Prepare a list of motivating statements and write down your goals.
  • Find outside resources such as support groups, counselors or friends who can offer advice and encouragement.

 4.  Action.  During the fourth stage of change, people begin taking direct action in order to accomplish their goals. Oftentimes, resolutions fail because the previous steps have not been given enough thought or time.For example, many people make a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight and immediately start a new exercise regimen, begin eating a healthier diet, and cut back on snacks. These definitive steps are vital to success, but these efforts are often abandoned in a matter of weeks because the previous steps have been overlooked.  If you are currently taking action towards achieving a goal, congratulate and reward yourself for any positive steps you take:

  • Reinforcement and support are extremely important in helping maintain positive steps toward change.
  • Take the time to periodically review your motivations, resources, and progress in order to refresh your commitment and belief in your abilities.

5.  Maintenance.  The maintenance phase of the Stages of Change Model involves successfully avoiding former behaviors and keeping up new behaviors. During this stage, people become more assured that they will be able to continue their change.  If you are trying to maintain a new behavior:

  • Look for ways to avoid temptation.
  • Try replacing old habits with more positive actions.
  • Reward yourself when you are able to successfully avoid a relapse.
  • If you do lapse, don’t be too hard on yourself or give up. Instead, remind yourself that it was just a minor setback.
  • As you will learn in the next stage, relapses are common and are a part of the process of making a lifelong change.

So take a moment to think about something that is important to you that you would like to change…what stage of change are you in?

Lastly, when I think of people in the helping profession who are experts in the change niche I think of Psychotherapist, Author & Speaker Bill O’Hanlon and his proposed Anatomy of Change.  Mr. O’Hanlon adds the following areas of focus for further understanding of the change process:

  • Main principles of interest – social following / influence, contextual influences, loss avoidance/aversion.
  • Changing patterns –  identifying problem / unwanted pattern, changing problem patterns, search for exceptions.
  • Solution talk –  Exceptions to the Problem Rule, The End Game, Highlighting Choice, Find Context of Commonplace, Worse Case Comparison, Taping Into Altruistic Expertise.
  • Dissolving impossibility talk – Spinning Problems Into the Past, Going Unglobal, Spinning Reality/Truth Claims into Perceptions.