How to Change and How to Adapt to Change

Written by: Brett Melanson – PhD (Psychology & Neuroscience)

Last updated date : March 10, 2022

Table of Contents

How to Change and How to Adapt to Change

  1. Learn How to Change: The Three Elements
  2. Six Stages of Change
  3. Techniques to Keep Change

A lot of people find it hard to change. It is likely that many people find it hard to change simply because they do not know how to change. Adapting to change involves many elements that you will learn about here. Knowing the elements and stages can make dealing with change much easier.

Chapter 1:

Learn How to Change: The Three Elements

Did you know there are three elements that can help you know how to change? These elements are readiness, barriers, and relapse.

Readiness for Change

Are you in the right state of mind? Do you need to deal with other issues before you pick up a new habit? Are you going to be able to stick to it?

These are all questions to consider when thinking about breaking a bad habit.

While changing can be a bit scary, questioning your readiness can stimulate curiosity and interest in new things. In other words, being ready to break away from old habits allows you to look inward and ask yourself key questions about your mindset and your future.

You may ask yourself whether you have the tools to successfully adapt to change. At the same time, it is important to know whether you will be tempted by cues that trigger old habits.

Barriers to Change

Barriers can also be scary to think about because they may make it seem like changing is not possible. Thinking about living a different way, and the risks that come with changing are possible barriers. They block or slow you down when it comes to changing behaviour.

When going through changing times in life, failing is not an option. Failing can cause you to lose motivation. So, it is clear why failing can be a barrier to changing behaviour. Even the thought of failing is a barrier because it stops us from even trying.

If you were to stop drinking, you would likely need to avoid liquor stores. This could become a problematic barrier to change if you walk home from work and there is a liquor store on your route home. In this case, you would overcome this barrier by taking a new way home if you were serious about changing habits.

Likelihood of Relapse

Relapse can happen—this is why changing is hard. When we get used to living a certain way, it becomes hard to try and change this because we get comfortable.

Thus, it is important to understand how likely you would be to relapse to a bad habit or behaviour. This is an important concept when learning how to change and how to adapt to change.

Things that can affect relapse are cues in the environment.

Let’s use the drinking example again. If you are trying to quit drinking, what would be cues to cause you to relapse?

Perhaps you drink most around your friends; are they big drinkers? If so, and if you are serious about quitting drinking, you could try having non-alcoholic drinks when you hang out. If the urge to drink becomes too strong, then it may be that you need to spend less time with them.

The reason why relapse is such a hard thing to overcome is that it is the last element involved in changing. Even after you have made your readiness for change plan, you have overcome barriers, and are making the changes necessary, you need to keep that plan going. Relapse is the devil and makes you go back to old habits.

This is why it is important to know cues that may trigger past behaviours, so you can continue to make positive changes in your life.


Chapter 2:

Six Stages of Change

On top of the three elements, the six stages of change are a great way to know how to adjust. They are also a great way to know how to keep that going as your turn over a new leaf. The six different stages are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and relapse. Pre-contemplation is a hard stage to be in because this is where you are in most denial. You think that you do not need to adjust to anything, and things are fine with how they are at the time. An example would be trying to quit smoking. Even though everyone knows smoking is harmful, a smoker might see it as a necessity to avoid the mood swings and pain that comes with withdrawal. Contemplation is where you realize you have an issue that you want to change but are not sure where to start. Once you realize you have an issue that needs to be changed, you need to create goals and plan out how you are going to make this change successful. Preparation and contemplation go hand-in-hand because you prepare yourself with a goal list to make the change successful. Action is where you put yourself to the test! With all the progress from the last three stages, you want to action what you did for yourself to notice the change. Maintenance is where you look back at how far you have come and reward yourself for making the changes you have made. Relapse is the last stage you need to worry about, but it is often the hardest. You may have cravings or become stressed with a new way of doing things. This can make someone frustrated and may lead them to relapse to old habits. 

Chapter 3:

Techniques to Keep Change

After learning about how to change and how to adapt to change, you are going to want to know how to avoid going back to old, bad habits. Some techniques that can help with this are cognitive restructuring and mindfulness.

Cognitive restructuring involves changing the way you think about yourself and your behaviour so that you can let loose of the old mindset and make change for good. Poor evaluation and catastrophic thinking are key thought patterns that are critical to deal with when going through change.

Mindfulness is another great step in adapting to change and keeping things that way. Mindfulness involves looking inward and knowing what you feel and think from the inside out. Know about your feelings and what it took to get to such a change in your life and think about how these new changes make you feel.

Last but not least, we also have courses here at Epsychonline to help you know how to adjust and adapt to changing things in your life. Check them out today!