What do we mean by health confidence? It’s the attitude that puts you in charge of your own health. More and more North Americans are taking charge of their exercise, eating, lifestyle, and health habits, and are happier for doing so. In fact, a recent Gallup poll shows that those people who are firmly committed to taking charge of their health (26% of the people surveyed) have an increased sense of well-being, feel confident in their appearance, and overall, are more satisfied with their lives. If you are among that happy 26%, congratulations. If you fall somewhere in the other 74%, the following tips can help you take charge of your health and start you on the road to a happier, healthier, more satisfying way of life.

Healthy Behavior

Healthy behavior means eating well, exercising regularly, managing stress, avoiding alcohol and drugs, not smoking, and following your healthcare professional’s advice regarding periodic health screenings. Sounds exhausting, right? Well, if you had to make all of these behavior changes at once, it might be. But, the best way to exchange unhealthy habits for healthy ones, is to make small changes, one step at a time.

Make a Wish List

First, make a wish list — what behavior changes will help you feel more health confident? Rank those changes in order of their importance to you and then agree to work on your #1 priority first, your #2 choice second and so on. (For instance, if you are a smoker and are also overweight, you may want to concentrate on stopping smoking first; then, concentrate on losing weight. )

One Step at a Time

Break down each long-term goal — weight control, for example — into smaller, more realistic goals. Don’t say “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by my birthday”. Rather, list specific short-term strategies that will help you reach that goal —”I will not snack in between meals”, “I will eat 60% of my daily calories from complex carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains,” “I will eat more fish and poultry and less red meat,” and so on. These smaller steps are easier to accomplish, and each success will motivate you to continue with your new behavior patterns.

Reward Yourself

Reaching a goal is a reward in itself, but it’s important for you to reinforce your new, healthier behavior, by giving yourself a pat on the back, too. When you’ve successfully accomplished a goal, give yourself a reward — a massage, theater tickets, new clothes — be creative! And be sure to actively appreciate your accomplishment by telling yourself — and anyone else who’ll listen — how proud and confident your new behavior makes you.

Make a “wish list” of those behavior changes that will help you feel more health confident.

Reward yourself — reinforce your new, healthier behavior, with a special “treat.”

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