2010 Contract to YOURSELF!

Writing a contract with yourself can help you meet health goals that you might otherwise put off.

Twenty years ago a smoking, overweight patient might waddle into the doctor’s office and wheeze, “Doc, I don’t feel right. Can you prescribe something?” The patient would walk out clutching a vial of pills–uppers to burn up calories, maybe downers to relax.

Today the health care profession is encouraging us all to take more responsibility for our own well-being. A doctor is more likely to put the prescription pad away and say, “Lose weight, stop smoking, exercise and get a good night’s sleep.”

Fine. But where do we go from there? How do we motivate ourselves to stop smoking, to end our deep commitment to chocolate and to run around the neighborhood? We know that good health relies on good habits. Now we need the right tool to help us build them.

Health care professionals and their patients around the country have discovered that “self contracts” can be successful in encouraging habit changes. By signing such a contract with ourselves–stating the objective, the time allowed to achieve the goal, and the rewards and punishments–we take a businesslike approach to being healthy. (I like to call it, taken a professional approach to your health and fitness)

“Usually written with the help of a doctor, nurse or friend, self contracts are a great way of helping patients take an active part in their health care,” says Nancy Smith, coordinator of the Gerontological Nurse Practitioner Program at the University of Colorado. “Self contracts help you pick out incentives for building good health habits and punishments for failing. They also help you anticipate and avoid harmful thoughts and actions that will knock you off the track.”

-State the goal/objective (as many as you like)
-Empose penalities for breaking the contract: The punishment must fit the crime. The more serious your goals are to you, the penalty should be that serious
-Reward for hitting your goal

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