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What is behaviour change? Here’s a simple explanation – and why you should care.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that behaviour change is exactly what it sounds like – changing your behaviour. Specifically, changing your personal habits and attitudes for a reason.

A big part of the 2022 Diabetes Journal that we created with Abbott is about how to make helpful behaviour changes in everyday life. Whether or not you use the FreeStyle Libre to make those changes visible (in graphs and trends) is up to you, but changing your behaviour can have a big impact on your diabetes management.

Those of us with diabetes have a really good motivator: if we can make the right decisions and choose the right behaviours, our blood sugar control is better and life is easier. Life is longer and healthier too, but immediately easier in that we’re not constantly chasing highs and lows, or stuck on a rollercoaster ride we just can’t get off.

Why do you do the things you do? 

The first step, if you want to change a certain behaviour, is understanding why you do the things you do. Try to dig a little deeper than the quick, obvious answer. Yes, you eat a piece of chocolate cake because it’s delicious (nobody is arguing that!) But why do you need something delicious right now? Are you feeling tired, or worried, or fed up with diabetes? Do you feel like you need a reward? There can be so many motivators for your behaviour.

We’ve outlined a few behaviour change quick wins below – are there a few of your own you’d like to add? Think of the specific things you’d like to change that will make your diabetes management (and your life!) much easier.

Support is essential

Don’t try and do it alone. Changing your behaviour by yourself is like trying to climb Table Mountain without a water bottle – it’s not a good idea! Behaviours are much more likely to stick if you make them part of everyday life, which means your family, partner or friends should join you in the changes you’re making.

Celebrate small wins

Don’t try to change everything all at once. Motivation remains high if you can celebrate your small wins. Pick one small behaviour you’d like to change (see a few suggestions below) and once you’ve mastered that, you can move on.

A few behaviour change ideas (please add your own!)

  • Remember to change your insulin pen needles
    Changing insulin pen needles is so hard to remember! The trick is to pair the behaviour with an existing habit. Place a container of needles right next to the place you keep your insulin, and when you reach for your insulin in the morning, reach for a new needle.
  • Inject 15 minutes before you eat
    If you can inject your insulin at least 15 minutes before you eat, it’s already active by the time the food hits your stomach (which means you can often avoid a blood sugar spike). But remembering to inject before you sit down to eat can be tricky – again, pair it with a habit. Inject for breakfast when you have your morning cup of tea before you eat. Inject for lunch, then start making your lunch. Inject, then set a timer if you need to!
  • Use fresh starts to make changes
    New beginnings help people make changes. Fresh starts give you a clean slate and allow you to put previous failures (real or imagined) behind you. There’s something so optimistic about a fresh start. Take advantage of this by changing your behaviour when you get a fresh start:  the beginning of a new week, the beginning of a new month, after a holiday, on your birthday or your diaversary (the anniversary of your diagnosis). Big life changes – moving house, having a baby or starting a new job – offer powerful fresh starts.

    What ideas do you have for small changes that can make a big difference?

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What to read next?

Everything you need to know about the FreeStyle Libre: We gathered all your questions and answered them – here’s all you need to know about the Libre.

What is a CGM? Flash glucose monitoring and CGM: Not sure what the difference is, or what these words mean? Read this article.

Get your free 2022 Diabetes Journal: The journal is aimed specifically at those living with Type 1 diabetes, and it’s all about how behaviour change can help you live a happy, healthy life with diabetes.

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.