When trying to stick to a new, healthy habit, many people inevitably enter what’s called the “habit dip.” It’s the time when energy and motivation to change wanes and puts people at a crossroads. They either continue with the change or fall back into the old routine.
Why is it so hard to get into a new habit? Because 40% of everyday actions are based on habit, which means they’re hard to break. So, when you’re trying to motivate patients to start a new, healthy habit, remember to also help them out of the inevitable dip.
When urging someone to make a change, a motivational interview sometimes works better than specific directions. Motivational interviews show empathy and help build trust by asking a series of open-ended questions that help patients take ownership in their care. Questions can include:
- What are some things you can do to ensure you stick to a new routine?
- If you follow healthy recommendations, how will your life be different?
- What is the worst thing that can happen if you don’t change? What’s the best thing that can happen?
- What are your health goals? What could you do if you were healthier?
By asking these and other questions, patients identify potential barriers to their success and can create a plan to keep good habits going. During the interview, give out patient giveaways, like a journal and a pen, so they can jot answers to your questions.
Patients may feel overwhelmed when setting healthcare goals. Starting small can keep them motivated. Work with your patient to decide on one healthy habit to start and then break it up into manageable milestones. For example, if the goal is to reduce sugar intake, ask them to consume less sugar on one or two days a week to start. Once they’ve comfortable doing that, add more days.
Diet and exercise. Two words that come to mind when thinking about getting healthy. And both words can make people feel uneasy. Some patients may think of difficult, regimented routines. Patients who need to lose weight may benefit from hearing about simple things they can do—like taking a walk or standing at their desk instead of sitting.
Instead of dieting tips, share healthy recipes and encourage adding vegetables to meals they already enjoy. Giveaways like a portion-control container set can help them get started.
Help patients dip into a new routine
The good news about habit dips is that they are temporary. If a patient can overcome them, profound changes may follow. Start motivating patients by engaging them in their healthcare goals, having them start small and changing how you talk about healthy habits. Top it all off with patient giveaways to reward their progress. Good luck!