In the last blog we met Joe, a heavy smoker who has just reached the 4th stage of change in trying to quit (see link here).
Joe has moved through the stages of Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation and now he’s at Action. This is the stage at which he has actively quit smoking and plans to stay that way.
But this is also the danger stage.
This is the stage at which Joe will get the most recognition from friends and family for quitting. But he will also have to face a number of pitfalls. For example, he might have quit smoking at home but will he be able to keep that up when out with friends? He might have stopped smoking when he is happy but what about when something goes wrong at work and he needs a stress reliever
This is where understanding yourself, and foreseeing the battles that your future self is likely to face, is important. In good news, there is something to help.
The Volitional Help Sheet is a sheet divided into two. The left column is headed ‘Situations’ and it is filled with a list of times in which you may be tempted to smoke in the form of ‘If I am tempted to smoke …’
For example, one may be ‘If I am tempted to smoke at a bar or pub having a drink’. Another may be, ‘If I am tempted to smoke when I wake up in the morning and face a tough day’.
The column on the right is headed ‘Solutions’ and completes the sentences with a list of alternatives to smoking when facing the situations on the left.
For example, ‘If I am tempted to smoke at a bar or pub having a drink’ may be completed by ‘Then I will recall information people have given me on the benefits of quitting smoking’. ‘If I am tempted to smoke when I wake up in the morning and face a tough day’ may be completed by ‘Then I will make sure I am rewarded if I don’t smoke.’
Research has shown that smokers who are given one of these sheets and are asked to draw lines from the ‘if’ situations to the ‘then’ statements are much more likely to give up than those who aren’t or than those who don’t receive a sheet . What’s more, these types of cheat sheets have also been shown to help people reduce alcohol consumption, increase physical activity and any number of other healthy behaviours that are difficult to implement [2-4].
So if you find yourself sitting on the couch dreaming of a future you why not take a blank page, make a plan and write a help sheet to help you through the tough times. The final stage of the model of change is Maintenance which you reach when you have successfully changed for 6 months or more. Now wouldn’t that be a future you your present self could be proud of?
- Armitage, C. J. (2008). A volitional help sheet to encourage smoking cessation: a randomized exploratory trial. Health Psychology, 27(5), 557.
- Kwasnicka, D., Presseau, J., White, M., & Sniehotta, F. F. (2013). Does planning how to cope with anticipated barriers facilitate health-related behaviour change? A systematic review. Health psychology review, 7(2), 129-145.
- Armitage, C. J., & Arden, M. A. (2010). A volitional help sheet to increase physical activity in people with low socioeconomic status: a randomised exploratory trial. Psychology and Health, 25(10), 1129-1145.
- Armitage, C. J., & Arden, M. A. (2012). A volitional help sheet to reduce alcohol consumption in the general population: a field experiment. Prevention Science, 13(6), 635-643