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Self-Monitoring Increases your Chances of Success

Are you planning or hoping to develop a lasting health habit? If so, what strategies will you need to adopt to stay the course?
While there’s no single answer to health behaviour change, there are some essential ingredients you don’t want to leave out. One is learning how to be accountable to yourself.

Research conducted at the University College London pulled together 100 different studies on healthy eating and physical activity. In total, the study analysed the experience of 50,000 people attempting to adopt healthier behaviours. A whole range of techniques were tested to try and get people to eat more healthily and exercise more, including encouragement, training in time management, and warning about the dangers of unhealthy behaviours. (Reference: Effective Techniques in Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Interventions:A Meta-regression analysis. Health Psychology 28 no 6 p 690 2009).

Of all the 26 types of techniques studied, one really stood out.

It was self – monitoring.

That’s why, when health coaching, I make sure people have worked out how they will stay accountable to themselves. Self-monitoring involves tracking what your actual behaviour is, not what you think or hope it might be. So if you set a goal of exercising three times a week, for example, self monitoring involves recording what you actually do each day. That could be a tick in your diary, a chart on the fridge or white board, using a pedometer to count steps per day or using an app.

Practice Pointers

  • What kind of self-monitoring approach works for you? Because I want to use the computer less, not more, I use the white board or my own printed out chart for a few weeks at a time then give it a rest. What works for you?
  • What do you want to monitor? Choose this carefully so that your measures of success aren’t too narrow. Eg don’t just choose numbers on a scale if trying to manage your weight – chose the behaviours that will lead to longer term success, such as exercise.
  • Consider including some measures of how you feel as a result eg energy or sleep.
  • Self-monitoring involves reviewing your progress, at the end of each week for example, not simply recording then forgetting about it. Seeing a shift over time builds our motivation and confidence to continue. If tracking shows little progress over time, it could be time to refresh your approach.
  • Update or change your method of monitoring periodically. Otherwise it’ll fade into the wall paper and lose its effectiveness. Gee mine needs refreshing. I’ll do that now!

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