Seasons of health: how to use the changing season to make your goals a reality

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I was talking to my massage therapist a while back and this came up in conversation, and it’s fascinating. 

All goals have 5 stages, this is called the Transtheoretical model. It’s actually 6 stages but the last stage is one that is rarely met in most habit-forming changes, as the “termination” stage signifies the end of the maintenance stage. When it comes to health the maintenance phase is where we aim to be long-term, and possibly even circling back to pre-contemplation and contemplation to start a new goal. Health is not really something we “finish” it’s something we are always working towards and improving on. 

  1. Precontemplation – In this stage, people do not intend to take action and are often unaware that their behaviour is problematic or produces negative consequences.
  2. Contemplation – In this stage, people are intending to start healthy behaviour in the foreseeable future and recognize that their behaviour may be problematic, and a more thoughtful and practical consideration of the pros and cons of changing the behaviour.
  3. Preparation – In this stage, people are ready to take action and start to take small steps toward behaviour change, and they believe changing their behaviour can lead to a healthier life.
  4. Action – In this stage, people have recently changed their behaviour and intend to keep moving forward with that behaviour change.
  5. Maintenance – In this stage, people have sustained their behaviour change for a while and intend to maintain the behaviour change going forward.
  6. Termination – In this stage, people have no desire to return to their unhealthy behaviours and are sure they will not relapse. Since this is rarely reached, and people tend to stay in the maintenance stage, this stage is often not considered in health promotion programs. 
The Cycle of The Transtheoretical model

So now that we know the stages of change, how does it apply to the season? Once I explain it will rock your world. 

Winter is meant for the pre-contemplation and contemplation phases. This is where we identify what we want to change, what we need to meet our goals (gear, skills, support), and start accumulating these things or skills.  Winter is naturally a time when you look to curl up and stay warm and cosy.  It’s dark, cold and roads can be sketchy, especially if you are in Canada like myself. Weather this time of year is not the most conducive for most to start new activities like running or other mostly outdoor activities, so it’s prime time to reflect on what you need before you get started.

Spring is the preparation stage, the weather is warming up, it’s getting lighter out, and at least for me, I get a boost of energy around this time of year. The preparation stage is meant for buying the gear you need, setting up that home gym, clearing out the pantry, and making a detailed action plan. This would also be a great time to find your support crew, friends, family, and coaches that can support you along the way. 

Summer is action time. I know, most people want a beach body by this time of year but this is the time of year when the days are the longest, the days are warm, activities are numerous, there’s a communal sense of energy and drive. It’s easier to plan activities with people. Opportunities are abound to follow through with health goals, not to mention the farmers markets will have all the best fruits and veggies available. 

Fall is next and this is the maintenance phase. This is where your habits you learned about in the winter, planned for in the spring, acted on in the summer, are tested in the fall. The days begin to get shorter, holidays are around the counter, and the temperatures start to fall. It’s not quite as easy to jump out of bed when it’s dark and cold as it was when you were waking up to a warm and sunny day. Maintenance is when your “why” (see last week’s blog) is really important. 

Winter is both the ending and the beginning of the cycle. Although it can be seen as the termination stage of this year’s goal, it is also the contemplation of next year’s goal. This is a prime time to reflect on the wins, losses, and stumbling points. Ask yourself about what worked and more importantly what didn’t. Take the winter season to reflect on, address, and adjustments that could be made to make the next year an even more successful one.