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This month, we shall focus on Self Efficacy. As we ponder on that one of the critical factors that informs adoption of healthy lifestyles is Self Efficacy.
A person’s optimistic self- belief about being capable to resist temptations and to adopt a healthy lifestyle is called Health Specific self-efficacy.
Bandura (1992, 1997) indicates that perceived self-efficacy refers to personal action control. A person who believes in being able to produce a desired action is seen to conduct a more active and self-determined life course. In Health Promotion programs, attention should be paid to individuals’ Self Efficacy and where required, spend time and effort building this up.
There is a call to set up Wellness programs that walk the employees through the complete behavior change cycle. According to Lazarus and Folkman (1987), as a person proceeds from considering precautions in general, to shaping a behavioral intention, contemplating detailed action plans and actually performing a health behavior on a regular basis, that person begins to believe in their capability to initiate change. That is perceived self efficacy.
Focal Concerns in wellness
Wellness is defined as the optimal state of health of individuals and groups. Health being, a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (WHO, 1986). Further, World Health Organization (WHO) has expanded this definition to define health as …a resource for everyday life.
The focal areas of the Wellness journey entail striving towards the realization of one’s fullest potential physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically; and the fulfillment of the individual’s role expectations in the family, community, and place of worship, workplace and other settings continuous journey towards.
The individual is continually involved in prevention and early detection of ill health (physically, psychologically, socially, spiritually and economically). Seeking quality help promptly in response to early signs and symptoms of ill health and compliance to treatment and care prescribed in response to ill health experienced. This truly calls for adoption and maintenance of a Healthy lifestyle.
Research has shown that Health-specific self-efficacy is significantly related to the motivation to adopt or maintain corresponding health behaviors.
Assessing Self Efficacy levels
One can continually assess one’s self efficacy towards specific health behavior. For example towards healthy eating;
• Identify and list the barriers experienced or factors that hinder one from eating healthy meals consistently
• Then to each barrier, assess how certain you are that you could overcome the identified barriers you have listed.
• Make positive statements and continually assess yourself against each statement. For instance;
I can manage to stick to healthful foods ….even if I have to try it several times until it works,…. Even if I have to alter my daily routine…even when I am busy…even when I feel tired….
I am certain I can control myself to …..reduce my alcohol consumption, reduce my salt intake.
Though reliable and valid measurement of self-efficacy is very challenging, these cognitive self-evaluations influence all manner of human experience, including the goals for which people strive, the amount of energy expended toward goal achievement, and likelihood of attaining particular levels of behavioral performance. Assessing individuals’ beliefs in their capacities to enact risk reducing behavior in the areas of psychological, social, physical, financial and Spiritual health is critical.
This assessment can be done at an individual level with high levels of confidentiality, allowing one to disclose information to the wellness teams at will. Disclosures made by the individuals could be for purposes of just sharing, seeking peer accountability support towards behavior change or where one needs help towards achieving self efficacy. Remember that where a health behavior is socially stigmatized or where social norms suggest that one should engage in a certain health behavior, social desirability bias may cause one to inflate self efficacy scores.
The encouragement is to be real and true to self.
In your Wellness journey where you are seeking to improve your health outcome, when facing a difficulty, do you feel like you can rise up and accomplish your health goal or do you give up in defeat? Do you doubt your own abilities to rise up and overcome the difficulties that life throws your way?
Do you approach difficult health related tasks (such as achieving work-life balance, physical activity and exercise, healthy eating, stress management, financial growth, among others) as challenges to be mastered rather than as threats to be avoided or tasks to be procrastinated?
Do you have a personal health care/ Wellness Action Plan? Do you set challenging goals and maintain strong commitment to them? Do you heighten and sustain your efforts in the face of failure and setbacks or do you quickly give up? Do you slacken your efforts and give up quickly in the face of difficulties?
What shall you do differently from today? Will you identify a wellness buddy to keep you accountable? Will you proactively, seek help and support in areas where you feel that you require support? Do not lose faith in your capabilities; let every day find you putting effort!
Mary Njeri Wanjau. Founder and Chief Executive, WanBeat Wellness Centre Ltd.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191-215.
Bandura, A. (1992) Exercise of personal agency through the self-efficacy mechanisms. In R. Schwarzer (Ed.), Self-efficacy: Thought control of action. Washington, DC: Hemisphere.
WHO (1986) Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. WHO, Geneva.