Modifying Behaviors

What is behavioral modification?

Also known as changing your habits, this is a way to help yourself be healthier by making small changes in what you do every day. Changing habits takes knowing what to do, being consistent, and being motivated to change (increase or decrease) a behavior to get better health results. It is important to change behaviors to lower the chance of getting sick. Behavioral changes include being more active and eating healthier foods, but also habits like smoking and drinking less. Changing behavior doesn’t happen right away and may take trying more than once and numerous steps to improve health. Here are some lifestyle choices you can make to help lower your blood pressure.

What are some ways to modify behaviors?

Reducing or Quitting Smoking

  • Quitting smoking lowers your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer. It can also save your life and the lives of your friends and family. It’s never too late to quit!
  • Tips for quitting smoking:
        • Pick a Quit Day and ask your family and friends to help you.
        • Ask your doctor for help, programs, and medicines to quit smoking.
        • Eating healthy snacks such as carrots and apples are good alternatives to smoking.
        • Reward yourself each time you get through a day or a week without smoking!

Limiting Alcohol Consumption

  • Alcoholic drinks tend to have a lot of calories and sugar.
  • Drinking may raise your blood pressure, and it’s best if people with high blood pressure limit alcohol.
  • Drinking may also make blood pressure medicine not work as well.
  • For women it’s best to have no more than one drink a day and two drinks a day for men.

Increasing Sleep Quality and Quantity

  • Aiming for 8 hours of sleep a night may help lower blood pressure.
  • Recommendations to improve the quality of sleep include sticking to a sleep schedule, and sleeping in a space that is cool, dark, and quiet.
  • Try to limit naps to 30 minutes a day and nap earlier in the day.
  • Don’t eat large meals close to bedtime and limit caffeine and alcohol intake.

Modifying Diet and Increasing Exercise

  • Eating foods low in sodium and sugar, and high in fruits and lean proteins can also help lower your blood pressure.
  • Starting to be more physically active, even if it’s light exercise, will really help reduce your risk of high blood pressure.

Components of a Typical Behavior Modification Program

Domain Intervention Strategy Examples


Keep track of what you eat and drink

Food diaries

Exercise and activity

Activity logs

Weight change

Regular weighing and recording on weight charts


Learning about nutrition

Energy, macronutrients, and understanding food labeling

Healthy eating

Low fat, high complex carbohydrates, and adequate fruit and vegetable intake.

Exercise and activity

Increasing daily energy-using activities

Using stairs and not escalators

Decreasing sitting

Decrease television viewing

Planned exercise

Group workouts at sports centers

Goal setting

Realistic rates of weight loss

Aim for 0.5–1.0 kg weekly

Realistic target weight

10% weight loss as an initial goal

Weight maintenance

Problem solving

Figuring out conflicts with goals

Holidays, parties, restaurant meals

Interpersonal conflicts

The unhelpful relative or friend.

Stimulus control and negative feelings

Hunger on returning home from work

Cognitive change

Changing how you think about food

Good and bad foods; food as a reward; coping with ‘highly desirable’ foods

Building self-esteem and confidence

Recognizing your choices and sticking up for yourself

Preventing going back to old habits

Accepting occasional small weight gains as normal

Modifying Behaviors Quiz

What is behavioral modification?
Which of the following is a tip for quitting smoking?
All of these lifestyle changes might help lower your blood pressure, except:


Glanz, K., Rimer, B. K., & Viswanath, K. “V.” (Eds.). (2015). Health behavior: Theory, research, and practice (5th ed.). (pp 126-127). Jossey-Bass/Wiley.

Vijayalakshmi, N. “Behaviour Modification Techniques – An Awareness Study.” Shanlax International Journal of Education, vol. 7, no. 2, 2019, pp. 20-24. DOI:

Source: Finer, N. (2013). Weight Management: Approaches. In B.C. Editor, Encyclopedia of Human Nutrition (3rd ed., pp 404-409). Academic Press.