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Creating immediate satisfaction
When it comes to habits, what is rewarded is repeated and what is punished is avoided.
Making a new habit obvious, attractive and easy will enable it to be performed once, but to complete the habit loop and make it repeatable it needs to be satisfying.
Not just any type of satisfaction, immediate satisfaction.
Our modern environment has developed in a way that many of our daily choices pay off at a later date.
Today’s work is paid in wages at the end of the month and today’s saving of money will result in a more comfortable retirement.
The problem is that our ancestors evolved much like any other animal where a higher value is placed on immediate outcomes like finding food, avoiding being food for something else, finding shelter and getting a good night’s sleep.
We still value what we can gain in the present above what may be possible in the future.
This begins to be problematic with many of the habits we hope to develop to improve our health and wellbeing.
A smoker knows if they continue its highly likely they will develop lung cancer in the future, but right now the cigarette will relieve stress and answer the call for nicotine.
We know that eating junk food will lead to obesity and all the associated health risks but right now it tastes good and satisfies a craving.
Good habits cost us in the present, bad habits cost us in the future.
One way of making today’s good habits more satisfying is to track our progress. This can be done as simply as placing a calendar on the wall and placing a large X on every day where you achieve your desired outcome.
Once you start to link a few days together, the aim then becomes to not break the chain.
If the calendar can be seen easily by others in the house, it also helps to keep us honest and provides visual proof of your progress which can be helpful on those days when you are struggling for motivation.
A blank square on the wall can be a surprisingly strong motivator and marking down your efforts can be incredibly satisfying.
This keeps us focussed on the process and prevents us getting bogged down by distant or unrealistic goals. It moves you closer to the person you hope to be.
Mark your progress immediately after completion of your habit and you may just find that by stacking those together it leads on to another positive action.
A morning walk may then start to become the catalyst for a healthy breakfast and as a result better food choices for the rest of the day.
For the full message go to the free resource section on the lornhealthyoptions.co.uk website.
Rob Graham, Lead Exercise Professional, Healthy Options.