How to Improve Your Health Behavior: Small Steps to Change

A lot of people are motivated to change their health behaviors when their health status changes, either for the worse, like after a heart attack or for the better, such as with pregnancy. If you want to change your health behavior, a chat with your doctor about the consequences of a negative health behavior and the benefits of change may help you get started.

How Do I Change My Health Behavior for the Better?

While some people may be able to make drastic changes in one fell swoop, jumping head-first into exercising five days a week or a new diet, most people should break their goals into smaller chunks for improved success.

Instead of running on the treadmill in a gym for 30 minutes, try climbing some stairs or doing other physical activity for a few minutes several times a day. Collecting information and data also helps some people stick to their health goals, for instance, keeping a food journal to see how many calories you consume each day and areas where you can cut back.

What Are Some Resources to Help Me Get Started?

Many online resources exist for people who are trying to improve their health. You might start out with an online health assessment like this tool from Dartmouth to create a personal health plan. Other resources to help you include:

  •, created by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, has activity and menu planners to keep organized with your progress and goal setting.
  • The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has resources on maintaining a healthy weight including weight assessment tools, nutrition, physical activity and family resources.
  • The insurance company Cigna has developed a personal goal-setting worksheet that includes physical, emotional, and social health goals.
  • The American Dietetic Association offers a variety of small ways to shave calories off your daily diet. Some examples include: don't eat out of a box or bag because you'll feel like you need to finish everything; satisfy your ice cream urge by buying brands that are slow-churned and have reduced calories.
  • The Tobacco Control Research Branch of the National Cancer Institute offers resources to quit smoking. There is also a help line to call where you can speak to trained counselors who can help you quit smoking. 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
  • The American Cancer Society offers a guide to quit smoking and more resources and advice.
  • This resource guide from a California non-profit lead by Robert and Jeanne Segal with support from Rotary International could be helpful for a wide range of health concerns including mental health and substance use information.
  • MedlinePlus of the National Institutes of Health has many resources on managing stress.
  • Mental Health America has resources for coping with everyday problems and tips to manage stress.

Resources reviewed June 2013

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