Forming Partnerships to Support Improved 'Whole Health'

Achieve Behavioral Change through Self-Awareness

Maintaining Behaviour Change Requires the Development of Self-Awareness


Changing behaviour requires a critical component, ‘self-awareness’. Changing habitual behaviour that is entrenched in procedural memory requires that you move from operating in ‘auto-pilot’ to ‘conscious awareness’. Allowing yourself space and time to make considered behavioural choices, in a responsive rather than reactive way.

For example, if you remember when learning to drive, it required a lot of concentration and focus on the task – thoughts rushing as to what and how to do what is necessary and anxiety rising. Then suddenly it just became automatic.  All the procedures required to drive have been tucked away in memory like a ‘filing cabinet’, and available to you in an unconscious process when required.

This is a very helpful learning process, imagine what it would be like if every time we got in to the car we had to re-learn to drive. The unhelpful side is that, this learning process also applies to the unhelpful or unhealthy behaviours we engage in, making behavioural change a sometimes-difficult goal to maintain. Without the critical ingredient of ‘self-awareness’ our ‘auto-pilot’ continues to run the show.

Behaviour is influenced by the environment and our internal experience. As procedural memory develops it captures everything in the environment and our internal experience like a snapshot, and packs it away associating it to the behaviour. What does this mean, simply all the external and internal experiences become ‘cues or triggers’, like a key to the ‘filing cabinet’ all the information associated to the behaviour is released. This is a complex psycho-physiological response occurring to motivate behaviour, any behaviour.

As an example, if we imagine the aroma of a fine meal drifting from a kitchen, suddenly, as a response we start salivating, our stomachs can begin to rumble and we feel hungry. The aroma is the ‘cue or trigger’, the response is the ‘motivation or craving’ to engage in the behaviour of eating. As ‘cues or triggers’ are encountered in daily life, it’s likely that you are on ‘autopilot’ and don’t even notice the process of how they are linked to the motivation towards, and engagement in a specific behaviour.

Neuroscientists have studied the ‘cue trigger’ effect in the brain using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI). Exploring how the brain responds to an encounter with a ‘cue or trigger’ such as paraphernalia or environments associated to substance use, or environments that reduce anxiety or emotional discomfort. Results show the brain region responsible for emotion and instinct lights up. This ‘reward and pleasure’ region of the brain is strongly associated to motivation and behaviour. Scientists have also found that once this process has been engaged, the brains executive functioning area has a difficult time in considering the consequences and risks associated with the behaviour, the ‘autopilot’ is engaged.

Through our experience, and understanding of the complexities involved in behaviour change, the Capri Sanctuary Programme has been developed to deliver the critical components necessary to support the development of ‘self-awareness’, manage the ‘auto-pilot’, and the ‘cues and triggers’ that have contributed to maintaining the behaviour you wish to change. 

A partnership with Capri Sanctuary is very effective in moving our guests’ away from the problem/s they are experiencing, equipping each guest with effective coping skills to best mange the stressors life can present, while connecting with, and developing a valued future for themselves.

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“Thank you Brent and the team at Capri Sanctuary for making me feel I can have a life worth living, and providing me with the tools and resources to deal with life's problems. ” — MH (Warkworth)

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