There may come a point in our lives where it will be beneficial to make some lifestyle changes to improve our health but this is easier said than done. It can be terribly difficult to change habits of a lifetime! A major component in the success of behaviour change, take weight loss, for example, is motivation. So what is motivation and how can we keep hold of it to ensure successful behaviour change?
Motivation is defined as the enthusiasm, the need or reason for doing something. One of the main theoretical perspectives on motivation is self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan). Self-determination theory is a theory of motivation and personality, distinguishing between different types of motivation and the reasons underlying engagement in behavioural change.
Self-determination theory states that to ensure successful behaviour change the type of motivation is more important than the amount. Motivation has been categorised into two main types; external and internal. These two categories can be further sub-categorised into extrinsic and introjected; intrinsic and identified for external and internal, respectively.
Extrinsic and introjected motivation comes from external reasons to change, such as pressure from healthcare professional or society to lose weight. Introjected motivation is slightly different from extrinsic in the sense it is still driven from external pressure but is partially internalised. The internal drivers are often negatively focused derived from external cues, such as feelings of guilt or shame.
Research has shown that internal motivation is crucial to the efficacy and maintenance of behaviour change, especially for weight loss. Identified and intrinsic motivation are two types of internal motivation, meaning it is driven by decisions made personally and having the feeling of real choice. Identified motivation is highly valuing or having a positive view of the behaviour change you want to make. The drivers in identified motivation are personal and meaningful such as weight loss for individualised health benefits like being able to play with grandchildren. Intrinsic motivation is driven by finding the activity interesting and satisfying, such as engaging in a particular physical activity because you enjoy it, without any external rewards. There are various factors that can promote intrinsic motivation such as curiosity or challenge.
The X-PERT programmes are based on discovery learning theory (Bruner) in which learners construct their own understanding. Motivation within discovery learning is the movement from extrinsic rewards, such as tutor’s praise, toward intrinsic rewards. These intrinsic rewards are essential in the success of behaviour change whereby the individual identifies personal costs and benefits from adopting certain behaviours.
So if one of the main components in successful behaviour change is internal motivation, how can we focus on this type of motivation and work to increase it? Here are some pointers to help increase your internal motivation:
- Determine the reason why and make it specific
Visualising why the proposed lifestyle change will be personally beneficial is one of the strongest drivers of internal motivation. Whether you’re wanting to make a lifestyle change to be able to play with the grandkids, to be able to join your local walking group or to be a good role model, whatever it is it needs to be personal to you. The personalised aspect of your pursued area is also known as the ‘specific’ component of a S.M.A.R.T goal. A previous blog has looked at S.M.A.R.T goals in more detail, you can find it here.
Remembering that you are making these change for yourself, rather than just for external praise, is really important. If you’re a few weeks into making some changes but are unable to see any benefits yet, try starting from the beginning and write a mood and food diary, activity log, or monitor carb intake and identify where certain changes can be made. Being honest when filling out these logs is essential as you’ll only be kidding yourself!
Another internal motivator is intrinsic, through enjoyment. Finding enjoyment in your new lifestyle change will increase motivation and ensure the continuation of the behaviour. Whether it be enjoying a new activity or creating new recipes, adherence to the new behaviour predicts outcomes better than the type.
Inspiration can help drive intrinsic motivation by increasing our satisfaction and interest, especially when thinking about acquiring knowledge or new recipes. To find new recipes, more information and our blogs for topics of interest, visit our website or forum.
Overall, motivation is a major component in lifestyle and behaviour change, especially with something like weight loss. External motivation plays a part in lifestyle change when something is achieved through praise or reward. However, internal motivation is crucial to the success and maintenance of lifestyle change. It is driven by enjoyment, a positive attitude and highly valuing and the change you are making. So when it comes to changing behaviours, remind yourself of the reason why you’re doing it (and highly value this reason) and make sure you’re enjoying it, to ensure success. Behaviour change might feel a little awkward, to begin with, but over time the changed behaviour may become just as easy as the previous!
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