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Making a Change

Why can change seem so hard? Changing a habit takes time because it’s a repeated behavior with little plan or thought. This can make it seem out of your control, but you do have the power to create new habits.

Every habit starts with a pattern—a “habit loop” made up of three parts: a trigger, a routine, and a reward. A trigger is a cue that tells your brain to do something. A routine is the behavior, and the reward is the benefit linked to the behavior.

You can change a habit by replacing the routine in the habit loop while keeping the same trigger and reward. For instance, go for a walk to feel relaxed when you feel stressed instead of smoking!

Graphic showing the craving cycle of trigger, routine, and reward
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Know your “why” — finding motivation

Consider what matters most

Think about your motivation to change—your “why.” Whether it’s to be more organized, more energized, or to have more time for creativity, remind yourself of what matters to you most in life.

To start, ask yourself:

  1. What do I want to change? 
  2. What are my most powerful reasons for wanting this change? 
  3. What will my life look like after I’ve made this change? 
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Know your “what” — setting goals

Create a plan

Every journey begins with a single step! A long-term goal is something you want to accomplish but may take a while to achieve, such as losing weight or lowering your blood pressure. There are many small steps connected to reaching long-term goals. That’s where action plans come in. Use a Personal Action Plan to set your weekly plans. Make them small. Make them specific. Make them doable. For example, “I will go for a 15-minute walk after dinner 3 days this week.” When you reach your goal, reward yourself!

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Know your “how” — using tools

Find what works for you

When making a change, think about what resources you may need and what works best for you. Here are some tools to get you started:

Learning About Changing a Habit by Setting Goals

Use a Food and Activity Diary

Tips for a successful journey

Make it fun

Make it fun

Choose something fun that aligns with your goals. For example, you may dread exercise, but dancing brings you joy. Focus on easy and enjoyable activities that will help you take steps toward healthier habits.

Ask yourself:

What brings me joy?

What have I always wanted to try?

Put into practice

Put it into practice

Remember, change takes time. There will be days when you feel tired and want to return to unhealthy habits. Keep moving forward. Positive thinking can go a long way! Remember your reason for wanting to change and think about the progress you’ve made.

Embrace setbacks

Embrace setbacks

As you start this journey, there will be times when you slip up and don’t make your goal for the week. Don’t be hard on yourself! Learn from the experience so you know what works and doesn’t work for you. The journey to healthy habits includes self-discovery and acceptance.

Get support

Get support

Let friends and family know how they can support your new healthy lifestyle. Ask for encouragement, not critique. You can also find support here:

Talk to a wellness coach

Join a group workshop

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Track your progress

Tracking is a proven predictor of success for making a change for life. It can help you stay motivated and focused on clear goals. Celebrate your progress over time by tracking on paper or with an app. Learn more about myStrength, a personalized program that can help you improve your awareness and change behaviors. Find what works for you!

My Strength
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Prevent burnout

Over time, you may experience burnout. Remember, perfection is not the goal. Little changes over time add up and help you reach your healthy habit goals.

5 tips for preventing burnout

Learn the signs

Learn the signs

How do you know you’re burned out? You may return to unhealthy habits or you may not care about things you used to.

Identify triggers

Identify triggers

When you have a lot going on in other areas of your life, take a step back and ask yourself what’s causing your stress.

Lean on others

Lean on others

Get support and motivation from others working on the same healthy habits.

Work with your team

Work with your team

At Kaiser Permanente, you have access to a support team of doctors, nurses, dietitians, social workers, coaches, and educators who can help you get back on track. If you aren’t a member, contact your health plan or care provider to learn about your care team.

Nurture yourself

Nurture yourself

Make room on your calendar for “me” time and do something you love. Make it as important as a doctor’s appointment.

Not sure where to begin?

We’re here for you. Find your own path to a healthy life with customized resources just for you.

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