Make The Habit The Reward

Following on from last weeks email about intentions and habit formation, let’s talk a little about keeping habits going long enough for them to stick.

A lot of health habits don’t have the immediate super high that unhealthy habits have. Eating a salad doesn’t give you the sugar high that a snickers bar does. Going to bed early may feel like you’re missing out on social time (or that next awesome episode on your current Netflix binge).

Even exercise mightn’t always feel like you kicked ass and got better. In fact, if you’re really doing it right, most of the time training will be tough and involve slow gains and a lot of backward steps. (That’s totally fine and actually the quickest way to make the most progress in the longest term.)

The key is to make the habit itself rewarding. We do this by taking pride in the action itself, and reminding ourselves that what we’re doing is good, beneficial, and healthy. The opposite, constantly questioning what you’re doing while you’re doing it, and desperately needing an extrinsic win, leaves us frustrated with our attempts, and back at square one!

We all experience hedonistic adaptation. Basically it means we get used to the good and don’t get as much of a “high” from it. Two ways to help with this: one that we normally do is periodically drop the habit. We all know how terrible we feel after a night of broken sleep, but we forget how good we normally feel if we’re always getting 7 plus hours.

Another way, one that is more consistent than having to break a good habit, is to be conscious and grateful of the good you’re doing yourself every time you eat healthy, move your body, meditate, go to bed on time and spend quality time with good people.

Make the habit the reward and practice conscious gratitude and you’re pretty much there.

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