How many people have said to you that they’d like to change their behaviour but don’t have the motivation. People often know what they need to do for their diabetes, but can’t seem to summon up the how.

So when I tell them, “You are one of the most motivated people I have ever seen” – they tend to stare at me in utter disbelief!

But then I explain

They are motivated to do all sorts of things in life.

Watch the latest film at the cinema. Devote some time to engaging in an enjoyable pastime or hobby. Pet their cat. Eat a delicious meal in the company of loved ones.

Going on holiday. I’m pretty certain there’s not a single person reading this who finds that the concept of ‘motivation’ enters their mind when they are thinking of doing these fun activities! In fact, the average person would be ready, willing and eager to get started and feel the enjoyment that these activities bring

So the crucial difference with these things is that they are a short-term route to good feelings – which health-promoting activities such as exercising, eating healthily or testing your blood often aren’t in the short term.

No one feels motivated to do something if the costs seem to outweigh the benefits. Go to the gym in the evening or spend a cosy night in front of the tv with your partner? I’m sure you can see what I mean!

Tips for staying motivated

Here are my top tips for staying motivated with any aspect of your diabetes health care:

Making it feel effortless

The secret with motivation is to link an activity that feels like a struggle with one that naturally feels effortless.

You could: Test your blood glucose and then phone a friend you love to chat with straight after; plan your exercise so it’s immediately followed by watching your favourite TV programmen, make the doctors appointment you’ve been putting off for months and visit your favourite museum or gallery afterwards.

Keep imagining

Imagine, and keep imagining, how great you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished your goal, whether it be losing weight, getting to the HBA1C level you are aiming for or exercising more.

Having a photo, picture or object that reminds you of your goal present and available to remind you of what you’re aiming for can be so effective when you are losing motivation, either because your goal is taking too long or the results seem too slow.

Keep your inner voice kind and supportive

It’s so easy to find yourself talking to yourself in a negative way, and even worse, listening to it. Form a coping statement that you find motivating and remind yourself of it often.

Examples may be: “It this was easy then everyone would be doing it!”, “Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me”, “Change is challenging but each day I’m moving closer to my desired goal”.

Remind yourself of success

Remind yourself of successes you have achieved in the past, and how you can transfer this experience to your current goal. Keep track of all your successes in a success journal, no matter how small and in whatever area of life you like.

Examples could be: learning to drive, making a new friend or nurturing an existing relationship, learning how to use a computer, raising your child, having a successful work meeting, learning a new recipe, mastering a new skill, planning a holiday or family day out, you get the idea!

Know the difference between a lapse and a relapse

A lapse is when you go off track temporarily – these are an inevitable part of changing behaviour.

A relapse is when you allow a string of lapses to overwhelm you without taking corrective action. “All or nothing thinking” can really get in your way, either being ‘good’ or ‘not good’ when it comes to reaching your goals.

No matter how well you think you’re doing, there will always be some obstacles in your way.

Yes, you will make mistakes, but the secret is in learning from them and carrying on regardless.

Plan for success

Develop a plan for success, which incorporates rewards. Daily; or at the minimum, weekly rewards are crucial for ensuring motivation levels stay high. These rewards don’t have to cost anything – they can be naturally occurring rewards such as self-praise, time spent in an enjoyable past time, a relaxing bath, listening to your favourite music – anything that you enjoy.

Reward yourself

Alternatively, you could design ‘token system’ in return for rewards – award yourself one token for each challenging activity you engage i, and after 5 or 10 tokens (you decide) mentally exchange these tokens for a CD, a new item of clothing, some fresh flowers – again, you decide!

This is one of series of Psychology articles by Dr Jen Nash, a Clinical Psychologist who has been living with type 1 diabetes since childhood.

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