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Change Pun

Holistic Healthy Behaviors

Co-authored by Ashley Johnston, Family & Consumer Sciences Agents Duval County

We talk a lot about the social determinants of health, health outcomes, and data in our academic environment at UF/IFAS. Today we are shifting our lens to focus on you and talk about what motivates you to make a change. Health is not only about what you consume. When I taught health to middle school and high school students, I focused on social, mental, and physical health. You can think of these areas of health as an umbrella. You can be physically healthy but mentally unwell. Similarly, you can live in a luxurious home but be financially overburdened.   

The overall “umbrella of health” comprises social, mental, and physical health categories. Think of yourself as the owner of this umbrella: it is yours, and yours alone. Others can help find it if you lose it or help repair it if it’s broken. Still, the umbrella is ultimately your responsibility, just like your overall health and wellbeing are your responsibility. Think about something you want to improve or a goal you accomplished in the past with that in mind. How did you achieve that goal? What made you change? Believe it or not, there’s quite a bit of science surrounding this, and it probably comes to no surprise it’s all in your thinking, the psychology. To help you start thinking about what makes you “tick,” we’ll skim the surface of one of the most popular (and practical) behavior change theories. That’s pretty much its name: it’s called the Stages of Change Theory, also known as its more intimidating title: The Transtheoretical Model (don’t worry about remembering that, unless you want to keep it banked for trivia).  

In a nutshell, the Stages of Change have 5 (some say 6) pillars. Recall the goal/improvement you want to make; that will put you in the second stage of the model: the Contemplation (thinking about it) Stage; that makes Stage 1 Precontemplation (meaning you haven’t thought about it yet). Following Stages 1 and 2 comes Stage 3, in which you start to make a plan (Preparation), then comes Stage 4, where you implement your plan (Action). If you reach the goal, you arrive atStage 5, where consistency is vital (Maintenance). And finally, though sometimes this is disputed, Stage 6 (Relapse) puts the individual right back to the beginning. We should mention that while the goal is to avoid relapse, often it’s merely another step of setting and achieving goals; it’s never too late to begin again. Rather than over dwelling on relapse as a stage, acknowledge it, and keep striving toward your goal. 

So why does it all matter? You can apply these Stages of Change to any behavior you aim to improve; whether mental, physical, or financial wellbeing, it’s pretty limitless (just like you!). Understanding these principles can help you know yourself – your behavior, what motivates you, and thereby what will progress you toward each subsequent step, which in turn brings you closer to achieving the goal. 

By now, you have a firm grasp on the groundwork: the categories of holistic health (social, physical, mental) and the steps you would have to take to make a specific behavior change in one of those areas (Stages of Change). Next, we’ll explore applying these principles by discussing how financial wellbeing can impact an individual’s umbrella of health. 

Stages of change can also apply to your financial management. According to Rutgers University, financial problems can affect a person’s health status and vice versa. This article stated overdue medical bills could result in physical symptoms of stress (migraines, insomnia, and anxiety) and or delayed or inadequate treatment. A report from Purdue University states worries about finances came in as the number one stressor across all age groups, according to the 2018 Everyday Health United States of Stress Survey. Yes, there is a survey about Americans’ stress levels. One of the solutions this article suggests is to take a close look at your current situation, determine if there is a pattern to how much and when you spend and ask for help. Create a realistic budget and stick to it. Utilizing these financial tools can potentially help you change your physical symptoms of stress related to money. 

Many financial educators in Extension, including myself, use Money Habitudes: The Leading Money Personality Profile, which helps determine your money personality. The categories of Money Habitudes are Planning, Status, Carefree, Giving, Security, Spontaneous. Identifying your money personality can steer you on the right path of the decisions you make regarding money. Based on the game, if you are a carefree person, you are not a planner. According to the Stages of Change and this money personality, you haven’t thought about managing your money. If you want to change this behavior, plan to utilize budgeting tools to help you manage your finances. If you cannot come up with a plan, sign up for the Take Control of Your Money Series. Register at https://FRMParks.eventbrite.com or email nparks@ufl.edu. If you need assistance with the Stages of Change,  please contact Ashley Johnston, MPH, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Digital Influencer via email: johnstona@ufl.edu or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JaxLivingWell